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Michael Aquino

A Brilliant Chinese New Year in Singapore: The Giant Lanterns of the River Hong Bao.

By January 23, 2013

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Photo courtesy of the Singapore Tourism Board, Photographer: David Ng Soon Thong

When Chinese New Year in Singapore rolls around, those in the know look to Marina Bay, particularly the Float @ Marina Bay (a floating sports arena directly across the river from the Marina Bay Sands). This placid parcel of Singapore hosts an explosion of light and activity, through a series of colorful and gigantic lanterns placed throughout the Float and even on the river!

That's Singapore's River Hongbao, scheduled to run from February 8 to 16: a vibrant celebration of Singapore's evolving culture in the light of Chinese New Year. The 27th consecutive River Hong Bao improves on the previous year's celebration, with larger-than-life lantern displays, fine handicrafts, and delicious dishes served at the largest outdoor Food Street in Singapore.

This year, a partnership with China's Guangdong Province brings many of the Chinese region's best bits to Singapore. Start with performances by the Guangdong Arts Troupe, combining elements from the Nanfang Song and Dance Company and the Shantou Acrobatic and Magic Troupe.

As you proceed to the River Hongbao Food Street, you'll be able to taste the best of Cantonese cuisine, a worldwide favorite that has roots in Guangdong Province. (You'll also find local favorites among the spread; read about Ten Dishes You Should Try in Singapore.)

Finally, you'll be able to include Shunde silk scarves, Guangzhou bone and jade sculptures, Foshan paper cuttings, and souvenirs from The Museum of Dr Sun Yat Sen among your shopping finds. (Find out more about shopping in Chinatown, Singapore.)

Photo by Eugene Tang / Singaporesights.com

River Hong Bao Lanterns

Lanterns are the highlight of every annual River Hong Bao, and this year's event is no exception: twelve Chinese Zodiac lanterns and an 18-meter-tall God of Wealth dominate the Float this year, along with a first for the River Hong Bao: a set of two Giant Screen Lanterns measuring 30m long and 10m tall.

Also debuting this year is a Chinese-style bridge which serves a dual purpose: while providing a mount for numerous colorful lanterns, the bridge also allows visitors to get a great view of the Float and the entire River Hong Bao.

Schedule of Events

The festivities begin on February 8, with a grand light-up ceremony and fireworks display. The countdown to Chinese New Year takes place on the River Hong Bao at February 9, also accompanied by fireworks.

Photo by Eugene Tang / Singaporesights.com

Performers from Singapore and the rest of the world will entertain River Hong Bao visitors at the Main Stage nightly, with themed performances on particular nights:

  • February 13 is "local talent night", featuring Singapore's song and dance talents performing their own creations;
  • February 14 features young talents and student performers in "youth night";
  • February 15 is "SFCCA night", where clan associations present performances rooted in Chinese culture;
  • Finally, "Harmony night" on February 16 is a multicultural presentation wrapping up the year's Hong Bao festivities.

Admission to the River Hong Bao is free. For more information on this colorful event, visit the River Hong Bao - Official Site (offsite). For other things to do in the area, Hongbao or no Hongbao, read our list of Top 10 Things to Do in Marina Bay, Singapore.

For accommodations nearby, read our lists of Marina Bay, Singapore Hotels and Riverside Singapore Hotels. For Chinatown-centric hotels that put you right in most of the Chinese New Year action, read our lists of Chinatown, Singapore Hotels and Budget Hotels in Chinatown, Singapore.

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