Modified Chinese New Year celebration in Singapore amid pandemic
As the COVID-19 pandemic has altered many aspects of the daily lives in Singapore, this year the celebration of the Chinese Lunar New Year is no exception.
The Chinese Lunar New Year is undoubtedly one of the most important festivals in Singapore, with about 74 percent of its citizens and Permanent Residents being people of Chinese origin. Amid concern that the local infected cases would be on the rise in wake of the family and friend reunions and celebrative activities during the festive season, the government has rolled out a number of restrictive measures. Consequently, this year's Chinese Lunar New Year are marked somewhat differently.
For Li Yan, an overseas Chinese, this year's celebrations became simplified. His parents and relatives live in China, but his wife's parents and relatives are all in Singapore. His father-in-law has six siblings.
Li and his wife, who is a math teacher at a middle school, used to spend the Chinese Lunar New Year holidays by hosting his wife's parents and relatives at their house and visiting the relatives' houses later. The party would begin from 11 a.m. and last until 3 p.m. local time to cater to the guests, he said.
Due to the government's imposition that each household would receive eight visitors per day and each person can only visit two households a day, however, the Li couple decided this year not to invite the wife's relatives over for lunch and not to visit their houses either.
For those who did gather together, things were not exactly the same.
For the Chinse Lunar New Year feast in Singapore, the most important dish is definitely yusheng, a Cantonese-style raw fish salad, which is a symbol of abundance and prosperity. Diners use chopsticks to toss the yusheng together and say auspicious phrases in the meantime.
The government advised the public this year to avoid shouting auspicious phrases when engaging in the tossing of yusheng.
Instead of a silent tossing, Aaron Yang, the founder of a consultant company, managed to do the tossing with the accompaniment of pre-recorded blessings. In this way, he could not only enjoy the fun of tossing, but also comply with the governmental requirements.
Gan Mi, a mother of two children, has enjoyed her staycation with her family during the Chinese New Year holiday. In order to feed their need to travel while they can't fly abroad due to travel restrictions worldwide, she spent the holiday by staying with her children at the local Marina Bay Sands hotel.
By playing at the rooftop infinity pool and gazing down on the glittering expanse of the city and going on a shopping spree at the mall down the hotel, they had a wonderful time there.
In attracting the local staycation guests, the hotels here have provided discounts and packages for lovers, family members as well as the frontliners who fight the coronavirus, such as setting up a tent at the hotel room for the kids to explore, welcoming pets to the hotel or giving away complimentary tickets to tourist attractions.
Besides moving to hotels, local residents also run away from their homes by boarding the cruise ships.
Local media Lianhe Zaobao reported that two cruise ships set sail from Singapore on Feb. 11 and 12, taking thousands to a sea journey and a fireworks show.
Some even patronized the ships twice in recent months. The cruises sail from Singapore to Singapore without docking at any other destinations. Moreover, all guests must undergo a mandatory COVID-19 test before embarking on the ships. But all these haven't dampened the holiday-goers' passion.
While lantern display is an important part of the New Year celebrations, the Chinatown lantern display was switched off on the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year to avoid overcrowding. For visitors who want to appreciate the 24 lanterns shown at the Gardens by the Bay, they have to register first and only 2,000 are allowed per time slot. They also need to take temperature screening and maintain safe distancing while visiting.