Chinese New Year, also called the Lunar New Year, is one of the biggest annual festivals for Chinese communities around the world. The festival, also known as the Spring Festival, begins with the second new moon after the winter solstice on 21 December. It therefore occurs between 21 January and 20 February according to Western calendars. Each Chinese New Year is named after one of the twelve Chinese zodiac animals on a rotational basis – Chinese New Year 2021 will be the Year of the Ox. The ox, who won second place in the mythical tale to reach the Jade Emperor, is known to be hardworking, honest, creative, ambitious, patient and steady (although its negative characteristics include its stubbornness).
Chinese New Year has to be one of the most colourful celebrations of the year and Singapore offers many ways to mark the occasion. And the good news is that most of them are free! Here are just some of the activities you can do with your kids this Lunar New Year:
You could visit Chinatown to try mouthwatering New Year delicacies at its festive street bazaar and see illuminated lanterns of Chinese Zodiac animals along the way. Or join in Chinatown’s annual countdown party, which includes live performances of festive songs, before watching a spectacular firework display to welcome in the New Year.
Street parades and lion dances
If you’re down near the Singapore Flyer, you could check out the Chingay Parade, the largest annual street performance and float parade in Asia (ticket prices range from $30-60). A short drive away, the National Museum of Singapore offers storytelling sessions and live music as well as drop-in craft activities. Or, if you’re in Sentosa and want to watch a CNY performance with a difference, consider watching an underwater lion dance at S.E.A. Aquarium!
The Wan Qing Festival of Spring offers Chinese painting and drumming workshops, heritage tours and craft activities. Additionally, there are free nightly stage shows, including singing and dance performances, at Kreta Ayer Square, and you can see beautiful floral displays and a sparkling Golden Pyro Dragon Dance at Gardens by the Bay.
Available across Singapore, but especially easy to find within Chinatown, are traditional Chinese New Year foods that are definitely worth trying. Hot pot, also known as ‘steamboat’, is as much an activity as a meal – everyone cooks their own meal by dipping ingredients, such as meat, fish and vegetables, into a steaming soup. Nian Gao, rice cakes made from glutinous rice and sugar, are often a hit with children. And for many local families, melon seeds are considered a must-have. Also worth trying are the festive fish dishes (usually a whole steamed fish), ‘longevity noodles’, Chinese sausages, barbecued seasoned pork, and fruit jellies.
Newtonshow’s CNY Camp is designed to make learning about this exciting and colourful festival as much fun as possible. Kids will learn about the origins of the festival including its mythical tales (such as the legend of the monster Nian who gave rise to the tradition of wearing red and lighting firecrackers), its modern customs (such as the giving of ‘ang pao’ or red envelopes), legendary and real-life dragons, and how planet Earth was formed and what its future may look like.
During the camp kids will discover topics as diverse as Chinese inventions, Guinness World Records, aerodynamics, and dinosaurs, and get the opportunity to make their own 3D dragons. There will be plenty of hands-on activities (including slime, bubble and gem workshops) as well as the chance to make magic potions and take part in a science battle and domino competition! And of course the zodiac animal for 2021, the ox, will feature throughout. As with all Newtonshow camps, lunch and 2 snacks will be provided for all participants and two-way bus transportation, via our preferred school bus company, is available on request.