Niu year, new safe distancing measures to take note of as you usher in the Year of the Ox. Chinese New Year festivities this year may be more muted than what we’re used to — and understandably so — but it doesn’t mean things have to any less ox-traordinary this Lunar New Year.
Huat do you have to do differently this time as you usher in the Year of the Ox in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic?
[Update, Jan 22: The Ministry of Health has just announced new tightened measures, and this story has been updated to reflect new regulations.]
Phase 3 Covid-19 restrictions in Singapore to bear in mind this CNY:
#1: Up to 8 visitors allowed per household… per day from Jan 26. You already know there’s a maximum of eight visitors per household, but is it per day or at any point in time? From Jan 26, it will be capped at eight visitors per households per day. From now until Jan 25, the limit is eight visitors at any point in time. You're also advised to limit visits to just two households per day for CNY.
That said, continue to practice social responsibility. Enforce your own set of Covid-19 house rules, if you must — make guests wash their hands on arrival, disinfect your place after each visit, to name a few.
If you’re heading out to a restaurant for reunion dinner, you probably don’t need a reminder that social gatherings outside the home are limited to eight per group. No intermingling outside your group or drinking alcohol from teapots after 10.30pm, okay?
#2: Lion and dragon dances not allowed at certain venues. You'll see fewer lion dances this year as there are stricter regulations for dragon and lion dance troupes. While they're still allowed to take place, the number of performers is capped at eight.
This means that there can be no dragon dances as these require more performers. Lion dances, on the other hand, can carry on, but only at larger venues like offices, factories, hotels, temples and shops in mega shopping centres — as long as safe management measures are adhered to.
That is, not more than 50 people allowed, and they have to be safely distanced at 1m apart. All performers have to keep their masks on, except for those controlling the head and tail during the performance.
Lion dances are not allowed in residential homes (including HDB flats, condos and landed property), hawker centres, coffee shops, food courts, wet markets, and neighbourhood businesses and shops in housing estates. This is to prevent crowds from forming.
#3: Keep masks on during lohei. Dining out this CNY? Keep your masks on while you (and your seven dining companions) say ox-picious greetings during lohei, or the tradition of tossing yusheng, at restaurants. 'Cos you have to keep masks on at F&B outlets unless eating or drinking, remember? Those who are dining out will have to avoid talking loudly too, so no hollering auspicious sayings, please. Altogether now (and use your inside voice, please): Huat ah.
#4: Chinatown’s CNY bazaar cancelled. For many people, it’s tradition to flock to Chinatown to stock up on CNY snacks and supplies. That’s not happening this year as Chinatown’s CNY festive street bazaar and countdown party have been cancelled in light of the ongoing pandemic. This is the first time it has been cancelled since its inception in 1989.
But there are still CNY celebrations happening in Chinatown, albeit quieter than usual. The Chinatown street light-up will go on as usual on Jan 23 and runs until Mar 12, at 7pm to midnight daily. Eu Tong Sen Street, New Bridge Road and the vicinity will feature 880m-long light-up (see all the photos here).
The Chinatown Street Light-up opening ceremony happens on Jan 23 at 8pm. It’ll be livestreamed on Chinatown Festivals’ Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/chinatown.festivals).
#4: Waterloo Street temple cancels midnight incense ceremony. At Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple every CNY eve, devotees eagerly wait for the clock to strike 12, in a bid to be the first person to plant an incense stick into a giant urn at midnight on the first day of the Lunar New Year.
Not this year.
The CNY tradition, said to bring good luck to the first person who does it, has been cancelled for the first time. This is to prevent crowds forming, since hundreds throng the temple to attend the ceremony every year.
Temple opening hours over the CNY period are also different this time. It opens on CNY eve (Feb 11) from 7am and closes earlier this year at 6.30pm, and remains shut until the fourth day of Lunar New Year (Feb 15).
#5: New rules for getting new notes for CNY. You can’t just sashay into any bank to pick up or exchange new notes to pack your angpows this year. Instead, you’d have to make an appointment or pre-order notes in advance if you want to pick them up from a bank. Read about it in full detail here.
#6: No physical Chingay parade this year. Instead, the vibrant CNY parade will take place online for the first time in its 49-year history. The digital Chingay parade is on Feb 20 from 8pm to 9pm, and airs live on TV, online and social media channels.
While you won’t be able to witness giant floats and vibrant live performances on the streets of Singapore, the razzle dazzle will be transported online with over 2,000 performers and 150 organisations putting up performances for the refreshed digital Chingay. Among the highlights is a 100-lion dance performances that involves overseas troupes from over 10 countries and cities as well as a dash of CGI. More info at https://www.chingay.gov.sg/.
Main photo: Unsplash/fleur kaan