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stories of chinatown
lighting up the festive spirit
As the year passes by, Chinatown transforms from one festival to the next, like the change of the seasons.

chinese new year

Every Chinese New Year, Chinatown becomes the center of Singapore’s attention as the night market hawking New Year wares spring to life on her streets. Crowds throng the bazaar day and night shopping for decorations, mandarin oranges and festive goodies such as lap cheong (preserved chinese sausages), pineapple tarts, bak kwa (barbecued pork) and egg rolls, also known as ‘love letters’ because of their hollow shape which resembles a rolled up letter. The streets light up with massive decorations and life-sized lanterns of zodiac animals – even the roads are closed for performances, firecrackers and fireworks on special days!

dumpling festival

Celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, the Dumpling Festival commemorates the legend of the patriot Qu Yuan. Commonly known as ‘ba zhang’, these dumplings are traditionally filled with meat, mushrooms and chestnuts. Other popular variants such as the spicy Nyonya zhang or the sweet ki zhang have also taken root as local favourites, with restaurants, shops and dedicated dumpling stalls offering these tasty triangular treats during the festival.

hungry ghost festival

Imagine a Halloween that lasts one entire month – that's what the Hungry Ghost Festival is. Believing the gates of hell open and the streets filled with souls given free reign for a month, many Taoists can be seen preparing rituals, leaving food offerings and burning joss paper, while street performances known as getais go on show to entertain these spirits. A lively concert filled with gaudy performers belting out one dialect tune after another, these getais are enjoyed by human and spirits alike. A dinner and auction are also held, where bidders believe that their generosity will bring them prosperity in the year ahead.

mid-autumn festival

Some call it the Lantern Festival, after the brightly coloured lanterns that young children enjoy running around with during the festival. Others call it the Mooncake Festival, after the delicious mooncakes that are only made and sold during this festival. But no matter what you like calling it, there's no denying that Chinatown is the place to celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival – people from all over the island gather to view the enchanting lighted displays, savour the best mooncakes, and take part in the annual mass lantern procession that ends in a spectacular display of fireworks by the Singapore River!

dong zhi

A celebration of the winter solstice, Dong Zhi is one of the rare occasions where families set aside everything to gather for a meal and a hot bowl of tang yuan – glutinous rice balls filled with sweet red bean or peanut paste cooked in a sweet soup. While some enjoy a warm home cooked dinner at home, there are many others who prefer to dine in the celebratory atmosphere of Chinatown, to come together once again as a family.

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