Light up the Year of the Rat!

Happy Chinese New Year!

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We’ve now officially rung in the Year of the Rat, but the parties are still ongoing (and the rats look a lot like mice). One of the best places to celebrate in Singapore is River Hongbao, a giant lantern festival at The Float @ Marina Bay.

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River Hongbao has everything you might expect at a festival — food, rides, live performances every night — but most people go to gawk at the wonderful lanterns.

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They have one lantern for each of the twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac, including these:

The God of Fortune, a central CNY figure, always towers over the River Hongbao festivities (and if you come at the right time, he also spits out showers of gold confetti):

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Other larger-than-life figures this year included flower bouquets …fullsizeoutput_632d

… musical instruments …

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… lion dancers…

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… coins …

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… and goldfish …

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… “swimming” in a sort of fishbowl-meets-carousel:

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I was a particular fan of this year’s futuristic version of a wishing tree:

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The whole scene is a lot of fun — and it’s also very loud:

Every year, there’s some sort of educational component to River Hongbao, and this year is no exception. The theme this time around is “Prosperity in Packets: Hongbao Giving in Chinese Culture.”fullsizeoutput_633f

Hongbao, also known as ang pow or ang bao, are small red envelopes containing gifts of money, which are given as tokens of good wishes at celebratory times in East and Southeast Asia. The giving of these envelopes is a tradition that goes back many centuries, and there are very specific giving customs (give in an even denomination, but not anything that includes the number 4; 8 is really good; 9 is the only acceptable odd number). You can learn all about this at this year’s River Hongbao, along with seeing many examples of old ang bao envelopes, including packets with signs of the zodiac …

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… packets with scenes of old Singapore …

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… and packets specially designed to celebrate the Year of the Rat (including one with Mickey Mouse, which confirms my theory that mice and rats are interchangeable for this particular purpose):

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There’s a display on ways to reuse old envelopes ...

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and ang bao are also recreated in enormous lantern form just outside:

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I was highly entertained by some of the figures on the “envelopes” that decorated the giant display booth, including this happy Chinese family …

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… and what I’m guessing is a squirrel dressed up as a fluffy dog:

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But my very favorite thing at River Hongbao every year are the fireworks, which you can watch from the grandstands high above the main festival area:

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It’s noisy, wonderful fun!

One response to “Light up the Year of the Rat!

  1. Pingback: Singapore by MRT: The Blue Line, Chinatown to Bukit Panjang | Traveler Tina·

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