Chinese New Year in Singapore

Since 8 is an auspicious number for the Chinese, we present to you eight expat tips for Chinese New Year:

  1. Chinese New Year is a two-day public holiday in Singapore, although it’s actually celebrated for 15 days. During this time  it’s common to visit family and friends. In other countries, the public holiday is longer. Eight days in China and three days in Taiwan, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Macau.
  2. To wish someone a Happy New Year, you can use the traditional expression “Gong Xi Fa Cai” which means, “Wishing you a prosperous New Year”.
  3. If you’re invited to a Chinese New Year celebration, don’t wear white. White is associated with death.
  4. At a New Year meal, you may get to participate in the fun Singaporean tradition of tossing the Yu Sheng. Yu Sheng is a beautifully composed salad of raw fish, vegetables and sauces. Guests use their chopsticks to toss the salad into the air while yelling good wishes for the New Year. Remember that the higher you toss, the more prosperous your year will be.
  5. The word for Mandarin orange in Cantonese sounds like the word for gold, so the giving and receiving of these oranges has become a New Year tradition. If you were to visit a friend for the New Year, you should bring 2 oranges in a red gift bag. They would then give you 2 oranges in return.
  6. Your hosts will be delighted if you arrive at their celebration with ‘hong bao’ or red packets for their children. Whatever amount you decide to give, make sure it’s in crisp, new bills and that neither the number of bills nor the amount of dollars contains the number ‘4’ as this is an unlucky number.
  7. Many people also give ‘hong bao’, as we might give Christmas bonuses, to service people who they deal with on a regular basis. Don’t be surprised if the recipient doesn’t immediately open your red packet. It’s considered bad manners to open a gift in front of the giver.
  8. This is the only time of the year when some shops in Singapore close. If you were surprised to find most shops and restaurants open on Christmas day, Chinese New Year is slightly different. Small shops, hawker stalls and family-owned businesses are likely to be closed. Big restaurant chains and malls, as well as tourist attractions, will be open as usual.

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