Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival, is one of the times of year people tend to look forward to the most. Not only do you get a few extra days off come February, but you get to enjoy the fantastic benefits of this massive celebration.
In Singapore, most people tend to plan trips outside the country during this time, taking advantage of the free time to experience other cultures, or to travel home and spend the holidays with family. But it should be no surprise that in Singapore, with around 75% of the population claiming to be of Chinese descent, the Spring Festival is indeed a big deal.
Admittedly, this is my third year spending the Chinese New Year season in Singapore, but I have rarely ventured out to explore what the city has to offer during this time mostly because a lot of shops and restaurants close down in honor of the holidays. This year, I decided to do things a little differently and experience the Spring Festival as it was winding down. So on the Saturday after the major celebrations, I headed down to Chinatown and this is what I found:
This is the Year of the Sheep (goat or ram) and, according to the Chinese zodiac, if this is your year you are kind-hearted, polite, and clever with a special sensitivity to art.
While Chinatown is definitely worth visiting just for the beautiful and colorful decor (usually done using red, as this is considered and auspicious tone),
you’ll also want to catch, of course, a typical lion dance (there was some debate about whether this is a lion or a dragon, perhaps a cross between the two?):
The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is worth seeing anytime of year, not just during Chinese New Year! It’s beautiful and wonderfully kept. Ladies, beware that you may be required to wrap a length of cloth around your waist to cover your legs if you come wearing shorts or short skirts.
The final (and, in my opinion, best) surprise of my afternoon wandering Chinatown was to emerge from the temple to discover people line dancing. Most of them were of the perky elderly sort, but apparently everyone and anyone could join in. It’s strangely beautiful watching people enjoy themselves in such an impromptu way!
The perfect finish to any day out and about is always an ice-cold fresh coconut. Ah, the good life!
How did you spend your Spring Festival? Share your stories! May the Year of the Sheep be the best yet!