Rats! Lots and lots of them in Singapore’s Chinatown! Big ones, small ones, all gaily dressed in their Chinese New Year finest. Yes, as you read this at the start of 2020, the Year of the Rat will be upon us faster than you can say, er, “Rats!”
This year’s Lunar New Year is from Jan 25 till Feb 8, and Chinatown is already all geared up to usher in the Metal Rat with a host of festive activities and celebratory events. Musings on the M49 was chuffed to be invited to a media preview organized by the Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng Citizens Consultative Committee to have a close-up look at this year’s lights!
In collaboration yet again with students from the Singapore University of Technology & Design (SUTD), the annual Street Light-up boasts 1,388 handcrafted lanterns—in the form of rats, gold coins, ingots, mandarin oranges, and firecrackers, etc—projecting much glow on Eu Tong Sen Street, New Bridge Road, South Bridge Road and Garden Bridge.
There are 200 rat lanterns in all, mostly placed along Eu Tong Sen Street, with the main 12m-tall centrepiece (see top main picture) located at the junction where the street meets Upper Cross Street.
Amongst the rat lanterns, look out for many a ferris wheel made of gold ingots (with mini rats inside a few of them) which represents an eternal cycle of luck and wealth.
The Year of the Rat also marks the start of the 12-year cycle of the Chinese Zodiac. According to legend, the Rat outsmarted larger animals such as the Tiger, Ox, Dragon, etc, to win the race set by the Jade Emperor and hence that is why the little creature ended up being at the head of the Zodiac. Lanterns of the other 11 animals that made it to the Zodiac (pictured above) can be spotted a distance behind the main centrepiece.
Official Light-Up and Opening Ceremony: Sat Jan 4, 2020
If you want to see the Chinatown lights, you can actually go now. BUT, if you enjoy big dazzling excitement and pomp, the official Light-Up and Opening Ceremony will be on Sat Jan 4 from 6pm-10pm at Eu Tong Sen Street and New Bridge Road and graced by Singapore’s President, Mdm Halimah Yacob. There will be music, dance and Cantonese Opera performances, and a lion dance troupe performing “21 Plum Blossoms Poles”, a festival first. And oh, stay on till the sure-to-be-explosive fireworks and firecrackers finale!
Heritage & Food Trail: Weekends Jan 5-19, 2020
Among the many activities planned for Chinatown’s 7-week Chinese New Year celebrations is the Heritage & Food Trail with an emphasis on Cantonese influence. The guided tour (available in English and Mandarin) takes one through the culturally-rich streets of Chinatown, before descending on Chinatown Complex Food Centre where participants will indulge in delicious Cantonese cuisine such as Yam Ring and Yam Cake from five popular hawker stalls including Heng Kee Cantonese Cooked Food and Jia Ji Mei Shi (pictured). A ticketed event, visit chinatownfestivals.sg for more information.
Other Chinatown Chinese New Year events include a Festival Street Bazaar (Jan 3-24; 6pm-10.30pm daily and 6pm-1am on CNY eve) with over 300 stalls selling Chinese New Year delicacies, decorative items, apparel, etc; nightly stage shows at Kreta Ayer Square (Jan 4-24, 8pm-10.30pm) including lion dances and musical performances; and a Wishing Tree at Chinatown Point (Jan 3-24; 11am-9pm) where each “Make A Wish” card costs $2 and all proceeds will benefit the underprivileged elderly residing in Chinatown. A Countdown Party will also take place on Chinese New Year Eve on Fri 24 Jan.
Kreta Ayer People’s Theatre will also host a special Cantonese Opera show on Sun Jan 5, as well as the 13th International Lion Dance Competition on Sat 11 and Sun 12 Jan. For enquiries and ticket purchase, call Kreta Ayer Community Club at 6222 3597 (9am-9pm).
Last but not least, Chingay 2020 (Jan 31-Feb 1), Asia’s largest annual street performance and float parade, will make an appearance at Chinatown on Sun Feb 2, 6-10pm along New Bridge Road and Eu Tong Sen Street. So, if you can’t get to the F1 Pit Building for the parade, get on down to Chinatown instead!
For more info on all events, visit chinatownfestivals.sg.
All photos by Marguerita Tan.
No text or photos to be reproduced without the blog author’s permission.