What we do on Chinese New Year

Movie date with a clan of 70

Four families and an individual share their yearly traditions, from dressing up for a photo shoot to cooking a special dish to watching a Jack Neo movie

Most people have a lazy start on the first day of Chinese New Year.

Not Qian Hu Corporation's managing director, Mr Kenny Yap, and his family of more than 70.

The entire clan - including his 86-year-old mother, eight older siblings and 23 nephews and nieces - get up early to go to the movies.

It is a tradition they have observed since he and his siblings were children and living in a kampung in Sembawang in the 1970s.

Mr Yap, 50, who set up the ornamental fish-exporting company about 25 years ago with his siblings, recalls: "Back then, we were so poor, we could watch movies only during Chinese New Year, using our hongbao money.

"It is great watching a movie together as a family. We can laugh together. It is a bonding experience," he says.

They lived in attap houses then and went to cinemas around the island, such as the former President Theatre in Balestier Road and the former Toa Payoh Cinema in Toa Payoh Central. They could watch up to four movies a day.

Now, most of Mr Yap's siblings and their families live in seven terrace houses located side by side off Upper Thomson Road. Some of his family members also live in terrace houses off Sembawang Road.

Since the 1990s, they have been watching their annual movie at GV Yishun cineplex, which is near their homes.

On the first day of Chinese New Year, the whole family meet outside the theatre before the show starts, usually between 9 and 10am.

Mr Yap, who is single, says: "That is when the celebration really begins."

Over the years, they have watched so many movies - mostly Chinese comedies - they cannot single out any particular favourite.

One highlight, however, was the All's Well, Ends Well series of films, which often starred Hong Kong actors Stephen Chow, Sandra Ng and Louis Koo.

Since the 2000s, the default Chinese New Year movie has tended to be a Jack Neo film, such as I Not Stupid (2002) and The Lion Men (2014).

Mr Yap says: "We really enjoy Jack Neo's films and my whole family get his brand of humour."

At 10am tomorrow, they will be watching Neo's latest movie, Long Long Time Ago.

For one of the brothers, Mr Yap Kim Choon, 56, it will be the only movie he watches for the whole year.

He says: "I usually do not watch movies. But I always enjoy the Chinese New Year movie because I watch it with my family. At that time of the day, we often get the whole cinema to ourselves because everybody else is still sleeping." Even then, they still buy their tickets a few days in advance.

Adds Mr Andy Yap, 49, one of Mr Yap's cousins: "By watching a funny movie, we hope the rest of the year will be filled with joy and laughter. After all, who wants to watch a sad movie at the start of the year?"

After the show, the Yap family go to Qian Hu's headquarters in Sungei Tengah for lunch, which consists of porridge, intestine stew, soup with bamboo shoots and leftovers from their reunion dinner held at the same place the night before.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 07, 2016, with the headline 'Movie date with a clan of 70'. Print Edition | Subscribe