Ang Pow Lai!
We've barely settled down from the New Year celebrations, but with Chinese New Year right around the corner, we're
already looking forward to the second wave of rejoicing - this time, with more feasting and free money if we're
lucky. Thanks in advance ah gong, ah ma, mummy, daddy, uncle, aunty… or if we’re young enough at least.
Even though Chinese New Year is widely celebrated throughout the planet, it takes on unique quirks in Singapore.
While traditions like reunion dinner and staying up late so our parents live a ripe old age are standard, local
traditions like queueing up to buy 4D at specific "lucky" booths is just one of the few sights that we look forward
to every year.
With that said, here are 10 uniquely local sights you’ll witness during Chinese New Year that’ll remind
you nothing beats home.
1. The entire nation going crazy over twister fries
Just thinking about this makes my mouth water. Regardless of race, language or religion, one thing EVERY Singaporean
looks forward to is Twister Fries making a comeback to the McDonalds menu.
Whether on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat, everyone will know when we lay our hands on
these godsent golden curls. It’s that good, I’ve even skipped dessert for this before - now that’s
a HUGE sacrifice.
2. Uncles and aunties queueing up for fresh banknotes
Every CNY, every Singaporean over the age of 60 flocks to the nearest bank, queuing for hours to withdraw the crispest
notes of the year.
Don’t think these aunties just want to hiam all things new - ever wondered why the angpows you receive always
have wrinkle-free notes? Yup, behind every flawless angpow is an aunty’s undying determination to get the
freshest notes, standing under the hot sun with shirts sticking to their backs. And also why they need to pack on
an extra layer of makeup the next day - they stayed up till 3am just to pack every single angpow.
3. "Lucky" Singapore Pools outlets getting more customers
Not all Singapore Pools outlets are created equal, and this cannot be more apparent than during the Chinese New Year
season. It's can't be pure coincidence that the 7-Eleven at Yishun Avenue 5 Block 102 has produced 10 more Toto
winners than the second "ranked" outlet at Tanjong Pagar… right?
Statistically speaking, getting your ticket from any branch gives you the same chance of hitting the jackpot, but
uncles and aunties don't listen to boring old logic. The more word spreads that a particular outlet is lucky, the
more people will go there and buy their tickets, increasing the odds that someone there will strike gold. But hey,
having a "lucky" outlet never hurt anyone!
4. Zodiac fortune telling boards erected at shopping malls.
Usually situated at the lobby of any neighbourhood mall, the year’s fortune for each of the Chinese zodiac
signs will be plastered onto 6 boards, ready to impart their wisdom to the curious. It’s no surprise at all
to see aunties standing a metre away snapping photos of the zodiac of their loved ones and sending it to them.
5. Chinese New Year snack-shaming on your Facebook feed
“An inoffensive piece of bak kwa has 370g of calories, which can only be burned off with 55 minutes of hardcore run”
“A pineapple tart has 74g of calories, but who are we kidding, you’ll eat at least 9 at one go, which is like eating x bowls of rice.”
I can’t possibly be the only one that fumes internally whenever I see these snack-shaming infographics pop
up my Facebook feed - gee, thanks for sharing, #fitspo friend. After a day of visiting - in which endless snacking
and eating occurs - I end the night with one final upload on IG and sweep through my Facebook feed before retiring
for the night.
Alas, during this festive season, the food fact-mill starts spinning and I have to open an album full of fa(c)tsheets
of the calories present in pineapple tarts, love letters, bak kwa, and all of the goodies I just had.
Ps: did you know I have to sprint for two years straight to burn off the calories I took just today?
But then again, I’ll just forget about it the next morning I wake up.
And since you’re going to be a compulsive snacker anyway, the key is to make every calorie count and eat only
the ones that tastes great. With Tai Sun’s Chinese New Year NOYA traditional cookie series, every bite will
be a crumbly mess of oh-so-delicious goodness.
6. This Fengshui uncle on the Chinese New Year countdown show every. single. year.
No matter which year of the Channel 8 Chinese New Year countdown show it is, and how drastic the cast changes are,
there is always - I repeat, ALWAYS - this fengshui uncle dropping in every 20 minutes to talk about the year’s
prospects for each Zodiac.
I don’t know about you, but I hate how slowly he talks. Nonetheless, I always run out of my room to hear what
he has to say about the rat zodiac.
7. Chinatown ah bengs with their mochi and jelly samples
From stalls playing Cai Sheng Dao to seeing fake firecrackers dangling ever corner you turn, one thing you cannot
miss is the ah bengs selling Taiwanese snacks. Don’t be fooled, thinking the term ah bengs has a negative
connotation - these smooth talkers are good with words, affectionately calling the ladies mei nu and males shuai
ge. Plus, they are super generous with giving out free samples!
Unlike at major supermarkets, where they dice jello samples so thinly you can see through em’, these bengs
generously open up entire packs of Taiwan pudding or muah chee and hand them out to bystanders, making you feel
guilty if you don’t buy any. But they usually taste pretty awesome anyway, so snagging a kg before leaving
is common for me.
8. Classroom decoration competitions in school
Source Some go all out...
Source Some just throw in the white flag.
One secondary school activity everyone has experienced is staying back to put up Chinese New Year decorations. While
we were always reminded to bring red packets and whatever decor we have, the story usually ends with the form teachers
saving the day, bringing a truckload of stuff.
Some classes do the bare minimum, just folding some paper lanterns and calling it a day, but those who want to win
the Best Class Award deck their classrooms like it’s their life mission. But at least one good thing came
out of this: I now know how to craft a simple lantern and angpow fish without hurting anyone.
9. Insane queues at Lim Chee Guan that go on for hours
If you thought Bee Cheng Hiang had long queues during CNY, wait till you see Lim Chee Guan's. Recognised by the well-informed
to have the best bak kwa in Singapore, the queues here stretch for hours upon hours for the same one month every
These days, we've been hearing news of domestic helpers being joining the queues, helping their employers and getting
kilograms upon kilograms of those amazing pork squares. Although it’s a smart tactic, do it yourself if you
can - it makes for a great bonding experience!
10. The Number 8 EVERYWHERE
It could be a lucky draw giving 88 cans of abalones or additional 0.88% of bank rebate when you sign up for a new
bank account. Or it could even be a whopping $8,888 when you spend more than $88 on a single receipt, the overuse
of the number 8 will never be more obvious. For my non-Chinese friends who never understood why, 8 is pronounced
as ‘ba’ in Mandarin, which is similar as fortune, pronounced as ’fa’.
While hardly anyone buys into that gimmick anymore, what’s there to complain about getting bigger discounts
and a chance to win big money? I’m going to the store and getting 88 bottles of $1 drinks because I can. Thanks,
11. Hair salons suddenly experience inflation
Source Literally the ONLY, ONLY salon that still holds discounted hair services in the Chinese New Year.
One reason why I never get a new haircut during the Chinese New Year season as many do is because of the ridiculous
price inflation - the salon I frequent can’t possibly be the only one that increases the price of their services
when CNY's around the corner.
From an extra $8 - for extra fortune, y'know - for a haircut to $38 for a full-on new colour service, I call daylight
robbery. Like hello, do you even know how many large twister fries I could get with that $38? We done the math -
it’s about 10.1333 packets.