Chinese New Year festivities in Chinatown to have new youth spin

Chinese New Year street decorations at Chinatown on Jan 4, 2016.
Chinese New Year street decorations at Chinatown on Jan 4, 2016.PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Chinese New Year street decorations at Chinatown on Jan 4, 2016.
Chinese New Year street decorations at Chinatown on Jan 4, 2016.PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

SINGAPORE - The much anticipated Chinese New Year light-up in Chinatown begins this Saturday (Jan 7) and, for the first time, the celebrations include a flea market and food stalls helmed by young entrepreneurs.

The festival brings back the annual festive street bazaar, where visitors can buy snacks such as pineapple tarts from its 440 stalls spread out across Pagoda, Smith, Sago, Temple and Trengganu streets.

This year, a section on Temple Street has been reserved for 12 entrepreneurs hawking unique festive eats such as braised duck shabu burgers and "lucky lucky money balls", or meatballs filled with melted cheese to represent gold.

Another new addition is a flea and car boot market, which will feature over 100 curated local brands and independent designers. It will be held at rooftop-restaurant Lepark at People's Park Complex on Jan 14 and 15.

The youth-oriented programmes are meant to attract more young people to the festival, which draws an average of 2 million visitors, said Dr Lily Neo, the adviser to Jalan Besar GRC which the precinct falls under.

Dr Neo added that security measures have been stepped up this year. For the first time, some 40 tonnes of concrete blocks will be used to line roads during major events such as this Saturday's light up ceremony, the Chinese New Year countdown and Chingay parade. This is to prevent vehicles from entering areas where large crowds are expected to congregate, she said.

Traditional elements of the festival have been kept.

For example, an international lion dance competition, now in its 10th year, will see 17 top lion dance troupes from 10 countries vie for the title of "king of the lions".

The precinct will also be lit up by some 5,500 handcrafted lanterns, the largest number ever made in the history of the Chinatown festival.

Some of these lanterns will illustrate the life of the chicken as it grows from a tiny hatchling to a majestic rooster, while learning life lessons, such as "the early bird catches the worm", along the way. The centrepiece is a 13m-tall, 100m-long rooster lantern perched at the junction of Eu Tong Sen Street and Upper Cross Street.

The lanterns, which feature environmentally-friendly LED lights, were designed by 14 students from the Singapore University of Technology and Design.

A large screen along Eu Tong Sen Street will screen festive greetings that the public can send in via the festival's website.

Other highlights include guided tours of Chinatown led by seasoned volunteer guides and the Chingay parade on Feb 12.

Outram Park MRT station and an MRT train will also be decked out with rooster motifs and traditional Chinese couplets from Jan 15 to Feb 11.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam will officially light up Chinatown on Saturday. The light up ends on Feb 25.