SINGAPORE - River Hongbao will take place at Gardens by the Bay this year, in an unprecedented move to ensure the safety of visitors amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Festivities will begin next Wednesday (Feb 10) and last till Feb 16.
An iconic part of the Chinese New Year celebrations, River Hongbao began in 1987 and was held previously at The Float @ Marina Bay.
While live performances are cancelled this year due to safe management measures, festival goers can still look forward to pre-recorded dance and getai performances.
"After extensive deliberation, planning and consultation... we are confident that we have put in place robust safety protocols," said Mr Tan Aik Hock, chairman of this year's River Hongbao organising committee.
The event is free, but ticketed, as part of crowd control measures.
As part of the festival, 24 lantern sets in the shape of peacocks, butterflies and the 12 zodiac animals will light up Gardens by the Bay.
Mostly located at the Supertree Grove and The Meadow, they include the centrepiece - an 18m-tall God of Fortune display next to a golden ox, gold coins and dollar notes.
There will also be a floating lantern display at the Dragonfly Lake depicting spring blossoms and butterflies.
Another lantern set, the Wishing Well, honours the Chinese New Year tradition of casting coins for good luck. All proceeds collected will be donated to charity.
"While this year's edition has been scaled back in line with the muted celebrations, we hope that the occasion will still bring some cheer and joy to our community," said Gardens by the Bay chief executive Felix Loh.
To see the lanterns, members of the public will have to book a time slot on the River Hongbao website. Time slots will be released in batches from Feb 3, 11am.
Up to 2,000 visitors are allowed per time slot, which is either 90 minutes or two hours long. Up to four people can be registered per booking.
Visitors will be assigned to one of three entrances to the Gardens to prevent crowding.
"More than 100 volunteers, safe distancing ambassadors and uniformed auxiliary police officers will be deployed to prevent crowding," said the River Hongbao organising committee in a statement.
While overseas dance troupes were a highlight in past editions of River Hongbao, Singaporean performers will take centrestage this year.
Various pre-recorded performances will be screened on a stage set up in Gardens by the Bay nightly. They will also be live-streamed on the River Hongbao website and Facebook page for those at home to enjoy.
An exhibition on the history of lion dance in Singapore will also be on display.
Curated by Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall, the exhibition includes artefacts from as far back as the 1950s.
River Hongbao is organised by the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations, Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Singapore Press Holdings' Chinese Media Group, Singapore Tourism Board and People's Association.