Chinatown is a must-visit when you are in Singapore during the CNY period. Some of the roads will be closed and makeshift stalls are set up to create a night market for vendors to sell CNY wares such as snacks and decorative items. The roads in the area are also decorated and lit up with festive lights for the celebrations. Not all stalls are open for business in the daytime so it is advisable to visit at night.
*Tip: The eve of CNY is the last day of business for most shops at Chinatown, before they take a break of 2 (public vacations) to 7 days. So don't visit during CNY itself! To get here, simply take the MRT and alight at Chinatown MRT station (click here for MRT map).
Things to buy
The atmosphere is bustling with crowds shopping to prepare for the new year celebrations. The commonly sold items at the night market are CNY goodies like pineapple tarts and kueh bangkit, decorative items like couplets, plants such as willows and mini orange potted plans and in recent years, and stalls selling Taiwanese jelly seem to have replaced stalls selling pick and mix candy/chocolate we used to see.
Business at the regular shops along the shop houses in Chinatown picks up during this period as well with many shops selling dried foods (mushrooms, fish maw etc.) and Bak Kwa (barbecued pork). The dried foods are ingredients used to prepare for reunion dinner (takes place on the eve of the first day of the lunar new year).
RED is in!
It is believed that a mythical creature known as the Nian would appear on the first day of the new year to devour and destroy. Overtime, the villagers realise that anything red in colour could ward off the Nian, thus the significance of the colour red during CNY.
People today hang couplets and decorative items all in red on their doors and in the house to celebrate.
The zodiac cycle comprises 12 animals - rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. The story goes that the Jade Emperor held a race for the animal kingdom and the calendar years would then be allocated based on the order of the race results. With 2013 being the year of the snake, it means simply, that those who are 12, 24, 36 (and so on) of age this year were born in the year of the snake. This explains the many snake related images on decorative items you see this year.
This is tied also to Feng Shui and those who practice it believe there are certain character or personality traits that distinguish people according to their zodiac sign, along with dos and don'ts for the year.