Community-themed messages add fresh touch to traditional Chinese New Year greetings

The annual festive light-up, which will kick off this year's Chinatown celebrations for Chinese New Year, features 2,188 handcrafted lanterns, of which 88 depict dogs to mark the Year of the Dog. The lanterns were designed in collaboration with the S
The annual festive light-up, which will kick off this year's Chinatown celebrations for Chinese New Year, features 2,188 handcrafted lanterns, of which 88 depict dogs to mark the Year of the Dog. The lanterns were designed in collaboration with the Singapore University of Technology and Design for the seventh year in a row.ST PHOTO: BENJAMIN SEETOR
The line-up of activities in Chinatown includes a carnival, a contest for the best-dressed dogs, a 420-stall street bazaar and the return of a flower market after a 10-year hiatus.
The line-up of activities in Chinatown includes a carnival, a contest for the best-dressed dogs, a 420-stall street bazaar and the return of a flower market after a 10-year hiatus.ST PHOTO: BENJAMIN SEETOR
Organisers said they wanted to create a Chinese New Year mood while spreading a community message about SGSecure, the national movement to get Singaporeans involved in the fight against terror.
Organisers said they wanted to create a Chinese New Year mood while spreading a community message about SGSecure, the national movement to get Singaporeans involved in the fight against terror.ST PHOTO: BENJAMIN SEETOR
Organised by the Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng Citizens' Consultative Committee, this year's Chinatown Chinese New Year line-up of activities is themed "blossoms of happiness and prosperity".
Organised by the Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng Citizens' Consultative Committee, this year's Chinatown Chinese New Year line-up of activities is themed "blossoms of happiness and prosperity".ST PHOTO: BENJAMIN SEETOR

Community-themed messages unusual, say some, but are not inappropriate

The traditional handcrafted lanterns which hang over the streets of Chinatown carry the usual Chinese New Year messages such as wishing people prosperity and a happy new year.

But they also display messages not usually seen during the festive period, such as urging people to be prepared for danger in times of peace, and to forge ahead in unity.

These community-themed messages have raised some eyebrows, with some people feeling that these messages are more appropriate for National Day celebrations, according to Shin Min Daily News.

But Dr Lily Neo, Jalan Besar GRC MP, who opened the media preview yesterday, said the messages were simply an extension of this year's message of "friendship, bonding and harmony".

"Since we're on this theme, we should continue with it," she added.

Organisers said they wanted to create a Chinese New Year mood while spreading a community message about SGSecure, the national movement to get Singaporeans involved in the fight against terror.

"Some of the (proverbs) are not really that far away from the (Chinese) New Year greetings but some are a bit out... But that is really intentional," said Mr Vincent Tan, chairman of the Chinatown Chinese New Year Celebrations 2018 organising committee.

While some people found these messages unusual, they did not think they were inappropriate.


There is also a dog costume competition on Feb 3 in Kreta Ayer Square, where pets can show off their best festive-themed outfits. ST PHOTO: BENJAMIN SEETOR

"The proverbs are about wishing the country to be safe in the new year, so to me they are okay," said clerk Veronica Koh, 44.

Mr Ken Chok, 32, also had no issue with the proverbs.

"The decorations all have different messages, so I think it's good," said the manager of a traditional Chinese medicine store.

Also drawing comments was the appearance of some of the lanterns, part of the annual street light-up.

The 2,188 handcrafted lanterns, of which 88 depict dogs to mark the Chinese Year of the Dog, were designed in collaboration with the Singapore University of Technology and Design for the seventh year in a row.

Some have pointed out that the dogs look more fierce than friendly.

Mr Tan said the dogs looked "friendly" at the original design stage. But the craftsmen "used a lot of steel wires, so when they fabricated (them), we found that some of them looked a bit fierce", he added.

Organisers worked with the craftsmen three weeks before the lanterns were put up to tweak some of the designs, such as changing the eyes of the dogs so that they looked less fierce.

 
 

This year's light-up, powered by around 13,000 environmentally-friendly LED light bulbs, spans more than 800m along Eu Tong Sen Street, New Bridge Road and South Bridge Road.

Mr Tan said this year's decorations cost about $400,000, which is similar to past years' figures.

Besides the lanterns, dog lovers can look forward to a dog-themed carnival. There is also a dog costume competition on Feb 3 in Kreta Ayer Square, where pets can show off their best festive-themed outfits.

Organised by the Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng Citizens' Consultative Committee, this year's Chinatown Chinese New Year line-up of activities is themed "blossoms of happiness and prosperity".

The seven-week celebrations officially begin with the light-up and opening ceremony on Saturday, with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as the guest of honour, and will end on March 16.

Other highlights include the 11th International Lion Dance Competition on Feb 2 and 3; a 420-stall festive street bazaar from Friday to Feb 15; a flower market, which returns after a 10-year hiatus; the Chinatown Chinese New Year Countdown Party on Feb 15; and the Chingay 2018 @ Chinatown on Feb 25.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 24, 2018, with the headline 'Fresh touch to traditional CNY greetings'. Print Edition | Subscribe