Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year

This is our first experience of Chinese New Year in Singapore and the excitement has been building for weeks. We are really looking forward to enjoying and joining in the celebrations over the coming weeks.

When is it?

The holiday begins on the first of the Lunar Calendar and lasts until the 15th of the first month. In 2019 the dates are as follows:

28th Jan – 4th February 2019 – Little Year

Preparations for the new year begin on the 28th January 2019 and last 11 days until New Years Eve on the 4th February 2019. In reality the shops and markets were already selling decorations and foods in preparation for the festival at the beginning of January as soon as the Christmas festivities were over.

5th – 15th February 2019 – Spring Festival

Chinese New Year officially begins on 5th February 2019 and lasts 14 days ending on the 19th February 2019. There are national public holidays on 4th and 5th February and schools are closed.

16th –19th February – Lantern Festival

Preparations begin on the 16th and the Lantern Festival is held on February 19th.

2019 is the Year of the Pig

The Pig is the twelfth of all zodiac animals. The Pig is also associated with the Earthly Branch hài and the hours between 9pm –11pm. The Pig is yin (as in Ying and Yang). In Chinese culture pigs are the symbol of wealth. The chubby faces and big ears of pigs are signs of fortune.

Gold pigs for gifting

Characteristics of people born in the year of the pig

As regards those born in the year of the Pig, they may not stand out in a crowd but they are very realistic. Whilst others may be all talk and no action, pigs are the opposite. Although not wasteful spenders, they will let themselves enjoy life. They love entertainment and will occasionally treat themselves. They are a bit materialistic but this is motivation for them to work hard. Being able to hold solid objects in their hands gives them security. They are energetic and are always enthusiastic. They will take positions of power and status given the chance.

Earth Pig 2019

These Pigs are social butterflies with friends from all walks of life. They have a lot of support in both work and life. They have fortunate lives and can find happiness. They are successful later in life. However, they aren’t the most romantic of people.

Year of the Pig Street decorations in China Town

Pigs really can fly!

Events and Activities

Red Envelopes

Children and the unmarried receive money in red envelopes called ‘Ang Baos’. They are also known as 压岁钱 (yā suì qián), literally “money to anchor the year.” They are meant as a token of good fortune and blessing. There is no set amount but the amount must be an even number. However $4 is to be avoided as it sounds like ‘death’ in Mandarin inferring bad luck. They are also given to service workers such as delivery personnel and environmental workers.

In the past, currency was in the form of coins similar in shape to donuts. Parents would use red string to tie the coins together and give to their children. It transitioned to be wrapped in red paper and now, put into red envelopes. By giving the money to the children, the elders are also hoping to pass on a year of good fortune and blessings. In some regions of China, rather than between generations, married couples will give red envelopes to their unmarried friends to transfer some luck.

Historically to receive this 3 kowtows had to be performed to the elders. Kowtow (磕头—kē tóu) literally means to knock your head (against the floor.) Basically you kneel and place your hands on the ground before you then bend over and rest your head between your hands. This was the ultimate show of respect.

Red decorations – everywhere!

Market stall selling CNY decorations
China Town decorations
Market stall at an MRT station

Everything is decorated red for Chinese New Year. Every family decks their homes in red. Red is also an invaluable weapon in scaring away monsters and used in nearly all Chinese New Year decorations.

NEX shopping Mall with a Chinese New Year Market

Wearing red

Just as you can decorate your home in red for protection and fortune, you can also wear red clothing. Many people will wear red underwear every day of the year. Others add on red shirts, pants, jewelry, insoles and more!


Mandarin oranges are gifted in twos at Chinese New Year. If you are invited to a house you arrive with two Mandarins and ang boas for any children. The sale of mandarin oranges has been huge in the last few weeks. Every grocery shop has a special stall set up for tasting a selection of specially imported mandarins for the season. Sold by the boxful.

Mandarin stall in FairPrice supermarket

Happy New Year!

Over the next few days and weeks we are going to enjoy soaking up the cultural festivities as we experience our first Chinese New Year. Look out for further blog posts!