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Chinese New Year
Photograph: Shutterstock / Boontoom Sae-Kor

What you need to know about celebrating Chinese New Year in 2021

Get ready for smaller, quieter gatherings this year

Fabian Loo
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Fabian Loo
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Chinese New Year celebrations are shaping up to be rather different amid ongoing safe distancing measures. The government announced on January 22, a further tightening on restrictions due to rising community cases, and to mitigate the possible transmission during this festive season. And while you are still able to see your loved ones (but with some restrictions), the usual merrymaking and loud gatherings, synonymous with the celebration, will have to tone down. While ushering the Year of the Ox, here are some of the things you need to take note of this year. 

RECOMMENDED: The ultimate guide to Chinese New Year in Singapore

Only groups of eight
Photograph: Capitol Singapore

Only groups of eight

While we're accustomed to Chinese New Year and open houses for the entire family clan, the new restrictions state that each household can only receive up to eight visitors per day. This rule will take effect from January 26. In addition, the Ministry of Health also recommends keeping visits to just two households per day if possible. On top of this, face masks have to be kept on during these social gatherings. 

Outside, the capacity for social gatherings remains at eight people.

Multiple table bookings are not allowed
Photograph: Four Seasons Hotel

Multiple table bookings are not allowed

If you're used to sitting at one of the three (or four, or five) tables your family booked for the reunion dinner, well, that's not going to happen for Chinese New Year this year. Families are encouraged to keep the gathering small and if somehow you find your extended family in the same restaurant as you, mingling between tables is strictly prohibited. There is a silver lining to it though – there's more food for the eight (or less) of you and you don't have to face the questions of busybody relatives. 

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No CNY company events allowed
Photograph: PhotoInc/Chinatown Chinese New Year Celebrations

No CNY company events allowed

CNY festivities in the workplace will also not be allowed this year – this means no gatherings, lucky lion dances and communal loheis and meals. Working from home should still remain the default to minimise the risk of exposure. 

 

 Mask up when tossing yusheng
Photograph: Summer Pavilion

Mask up when tossing yusheng

It’s going to be a quiet affair at dinner tables this year. When tossing the requisite yusheng at restaurants outside, guests will have to keep their masks on while tossing yusheng. On top of that, you now have to turn down the huat, meaning that all the noisy incantations for luck, prosperity and all things auspicious is strictly prohibited. Think of it like making a private birthday wish, kind of like a huat in your heart. 

There is an alternative though. you can use DJ Beng, an app to do all the "huat" for you. 

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Say goodbye to lion and dragon dance performances
Photograph: Unsplash / Fikri Rasyid

Say goodbye to lion and dragon dance performances

Part of the Chinese New Year festivities is the joyous lion and dragon dances in public spaces. This year – that's right – these festive shows will not be allowed to perform at most public places to prevent crowds from gathering. Selected areas, however, can still run closed-door performances with strict safe distancing measures in place.

E-hongbao encouraged
Photograph: @howtoink/Instagram

E-hongbao encouraged

Another tradition for Chinese New Year prep is getting fresh new notes to fill hongbaos. This year, to get new physical notes, a reservation will have to be made at the respective banks. To reduce queues (there already have been reports of overwhelming demands), people are strongly encouraged to gift electronic red packets instead via apps like PayLah, PayNow or a simple bank transfer. With this contactless hongbao concept, relatives that can't do the visiting might still have to fork out the money, there's no running away now – so that's a plus. 

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