A somewhat tame Chinese New Year in Chinatown Singapore (Photos)

The rabbit display at the junction of Upper Cross Street and New Bridge Road. Photo: Coconuts Singapore
The rabbit display at the junction of Upper Cross Street and New Bridge Road. Photo: Coconuts Singapore

Chinese New Year is known for its elaborate lights and in-your-face decorations, except that doesn’t seem to be the case in Singapore’s Chinatown this year.

Festivities are fully back with street light-ups, weekly stage shows and the Chinese New Year countdown party after authorities restricted celebrations the past few years by enforcing safety protocols to curb the spread of Covid-19. 

Chinatown is the main hotspot for crowds wanting to snag New Year goodies for the festive season, which begins this Sunday, but decorations were surprisingly mellowed down there compared to previous years when Coconuts took a tour around the neighborhood recently.

Every year, the public does not hold back on giving criticism over Chinatown’s CNY decorations. In 2021 for the Year of the Ox, some mocked the herd of aesthetically unappealing oxen and said the area looked like a “farm.” 

In the year of the Tiger, the cute otter-dressed-as-tigers in Chinatown Point were called rats. The decoration team really can’t catch a break. 

This Year of the Rabbit, the bunny-themed decorations were sadly not spared. One user complained online saying that the squatting rabbit statue along Eu Tong Sen Street looked like it was “taking a dump.” 

Another accused Chinatown Point of recycling its 2020 Year of the Rat decor, which is when the mall decided to unofficially adopt the otter as its mascot, yet again. 

This year, all the statues looked the same except they featured different colors and wore different costumes to suit this year’s theme.

The one with the bunny ears still had its otter ears (so now it has two pairs of ears) and its lower body featured a different color from its head.

Not all bad

Still, we need to give credit to the Chinatown Festival committee, which said its theme this year is “Leaping into the Prosperous Year of the Rabbit.” The committee called for design help from students of the Singapore University of Technology and Design.

The streets of Chinatown come to life at night when the eye-catching dioramas are lit up at New Bridge Road, South Bridge Road, Eu Tong Sen Street and Upper Cross Street.

There’s a 10-meter centerpiece featuring a multi-generational family of rabbits at the junction of Upper Cross Street and New Bridge Road.

Photo: Chinatown Festival Committee

Photo: Chinatown Festival Committee

We also took a second to pose as a bunny just outside Chinatown Complex.

The iconic Buddha Tooth Relic Temple impressed us the most with decorations all around the temple. There were rows and rows of lanterns under the shelters and also propped up on the outside, along with a giant lotus flower structure. Wide-eyed rabbits in traditional costumes paired with festive props welcome you into the temple.

But we did see one questionable decoration with two bunnies that had a lovely setup but, upon closer inspection, seemed to have afflicted the rabbits with red bulging pimples. 

Bring on the goodies!

The festive fair, which is back after a two-year hiatus, features 280 stalls selling festive goodies at Smith Street, Pagoda Street, Trengganu Street and Temple Street.

Most of the decorations were put up for sale instead of being hung up along the streets. But the spread was abundant with a variety of festive food being laid out including jellies, chestnuts, and durians.

Rumor has it that the decorations have been toned down due to China being in partial lockdown preventing some of the more elaborate decorations from being shipped in time. 

But just because the streets might not be lit up quite to your expectations or some stall didn’t hang enough lanterns, that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the Chinese New Year celebrations in full when there are other means. 

After all, in traditional Chinese culture, the rabbit is a symbol of longevity, peace and prosperity, and 2023 is predicted to be a year of hope. 

We don’t know about you but we’ll settle for modest decorations and a focus on having more meaningful celebrations with our loved ones. Plus, gorging on festive food is already plenty to look forward to. 

Other stories you should check out:

Stop gifting rabbits as pets, especially to young children: Singapore Rabbit Society has had enough
They may be small and fluffy but these furry animals require a big commitment. Read more.
Stop gifting rabbits as pets, especially to young children: Singapore Rabbit Society has had enough
They may be small and fluffy but these furry animals require a big commitment. Read more.
See how different Chinese New Year looks in KL and Singapore (Interactive)
One’s alive while the other’s dead, 2 cities so close yet worlds apart. Read more.
See how different Chinese New Year looks in KL and Singapore (Interactive)
One’s alive while the other’s dead, 2 cities so close yet worlds apart. Read more.


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