River Hongbao welcomes Chinese New Year with a mix of old and new

God of Fortune against the CBD skyline during sunset at the launch of River Hongbao 2018. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Every year, the River Hongbao event at the Marina Bay floating platform draws in crowds looking to soak in the Chinese New Year festivities.

This year was no different, with some 100,000 people turning up at the launch of the event's 32nd edition on Wednesday evening (Feb 14).

But other than the traditional, well-loved elements of the event, such as food stalls and the lantern displays of animals in the Chinese zodiac, there were new initiatives too - including River Hongbao's first indoor exhibition.

Titled My Home, My New Year, the exhibition features full-sized displays of a kampung house, an old Housing Board flat and a modern home dining area. The exhibition details the experience of a fictitious character "Chun Sheng", and his changing experiences of Chinese New Year in Singapore over the years.

It was put together by 18 students, along with the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who was guest-of-honour at Wednesday's opening ceremony, said: "I am happy to see many inter-generational families spending time together and enjoying the Lunar New Year festivities at this year's River Hongbao.

"We must continue to build on our strong foundation built by our forefathers and make Singapore an endearing Home where everyone can achieve their aspirations."

During the event, visitors also got a glimpse of the giant figure of the Chinese God of Fortune, which stands at 18m - taller than the height of three full-grown giraffes stacked one on top of the other. On display also were more than 500 lanterns handmade by 35 craftsmen from Sichuan, China.

Retired bus driver Lum Mun Chuen, 77, was at River Hongbao on Wednesday to soak in the atmosphere. He said: "My wife and I come here every year. It's usually very crowded, so we decided to come today, a weekday, to escape the crowd."

Tourist Andrew Clappison, a 26-year-old from Canada, saw River Hongbao listed on an events page and decided to pop by. "I saw it listed as a recommendation on things to do during the new year. So I came to try some of the food, and to see the fireworks."

There were also many couples during the event on Wednesday, which coincides with Valentine's Day celebrations.

Recruiter David Cham, 28, and his pharmacist wife Yan Ting, come to River Hongbao after their Valentine's Day dinner at Suntec City. "We often come here during the festive season. We enjoy the zodiac predictions and walking along the food street."

In all, there will be 11 nights of fireworks, light shows, food, games and performances, with organisers expecting one million visitors over the period.

River Hongbao 2018 is organised by the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations, Singapore Press Holdings, the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Singapore Tourism Board and People's Association.

The event is open from 2pm to 11pm daily from Feb 14 to 24, except on Chinese New Year's Eve on Feb 15, when it will be extended to 1am. Admission is free.

Chairman of the River Hongbao organising committee, Ms Cheng Li Hui, said: "The spirit of Lunar New Year is really about home, families and reunion with our loved ones. I hope that visitors to River Hongbao can feel our theme of an endearing home through the various lantern displays and exhibition."

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