Celebrating CNY during the New Normal

Chinese new year festival decorations pow or red packet, orange and gold ingots or golden lump on a red background. Chinese characters FU in the article refer to fortune good luck, wealth, money flow.

Written by Lua Guan Sang and Elizabeth Lim

With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have entered into an entirely new world, with new rules, social distancing measures and gathering restrictions. All over the world, countries continue to grapple with the effects of the pandemic, with some even having to implement lockdowns to control the spread of the deadly virus. These implementations have, however, affected the celebration of many festivities.

2021’s Chinese New Year is no exception.

One of the most important celebrations in the Chinese lunar calendar, Chinese New Year (CNY) signifies the beginning of spring, and the start of a brand new year – and we all know we need it after that tumultuous year we just had! Often a huge celebration, traditions for CNY include reunion dinners and home visitations amongst extended families and friends. However, these traditions involve gatherings amongst huge groups of people and of course, have brought up serious doubts and concerns in regards to the public health and safety. As such countries have had to think fast on how to make CNY this year as normal as possible.


Here in Singapore, authorities have restricted each household to a maximum of eight visitors a day and recommend families to limit visitation to only two households a day.


In China, the National Health Commission has stated that people returning to rural areas will have to take and produce a negative Covid-19 test issued up to seven days before they begin their journey home. They will also have to be under a 14-day “home observation” period, which still allows them to leave their home, but requires them to monitor their temperature daily, however, during this period, they will not be allowed to partake in gatherings and have to take a test every seven days.


Across the border in Malaysia, the government has implemented restrictions that allow up to 15 family members to gather for a reunion dinner, but they must live within a 10km radius of the dinner venue.


Yet, with crisis comes opportunity! Even though CNY might not be the same as it used to be, there are still alternative activities and ways to celebrate. Who knows? You might just discover something new and exciting you could share with your friends and family!

So, what exactly can we do to celebrate this festive season, in spite of the restrictions in place? We’ve got you covered, with some of our recommendations below!


Can’t be there physically with your family? Fret not, because with how advanced technology has become, there are many possibilities to bridge that physical gap between family members and friends. With Zoom meetings replacing physical work meetings and school sessions, it is a good alternative to connect with the rest of the family.

We can even take our activities online! From watching a movie together (Netflix Party anyone?), to online versions of our favourite mahjong and card games, the possibilities are endless, all you need to do is get creative.


Staycations are a great way to wind down and relax over the long weekend. This festive period offers a rare extended break, so why not make full use of it! Book a hotel or a resort in your own area and be a tourist in your own country. We might not be able to celebrate as we used to in past years, but this is a great way to spend time and step out of the house with the family or spend quality time with the people we haven’t seen in a long time (still following social gathering guidelines, of course!).

CNY is nonetheless a holiday, so take that time off from work and study pressures and just chill. Go for a spa or a massage if an outing with the extended family is not your thing.


Nothing says enrichment better than food for the brain. Reading is always a great option, especially if you have a drink (alcoholic or not, we’re not picky) right next to you. Whether it is being transported into a whole new world, or learning how to Marie Kondo your life, there is so much knowledge to gain. Books such as ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee and ‘The Ends of the World’ by Peter Brannen are some great classics to catch up on.

Additionally, why not support our local writers and #SingLit with some of our recommendations such as ‘How We Disappeared’ by Jing-Jing Lee, ‘17A Keong Saik Road’ by Charmaine Leung and ‘Every Moving Thing That Lives Shall Be Food’ by Grace Chia!

Other than books, you can also catch up on world issues and other topics with our timeless magazines – Asian Geographic, Asian Diver and Scuba Diver.  Our latest issue, Elements of Life, explores the 5 elements – Wood, Water, Air, Earth and Metal, and looks at the different horoscopes, perfect for some fortune-telling and personality revelations this Chinese New Year!


With a long weekend ahead, this might be the perfect opportunity to pick up a new hobby, or chase old ones! From the Singapore Flyer to the Zoo, Night Safari and Universal Studios Singapore, there is something for everyone. In fact, this is the perfect time to use some of those SingapoRediscovers Vouchers eh? Turn into a tourist and revisit some of these places and see them again this 2021!

Oh, and how about that hobby you put on the back-burner? Maybe it was finishing up a book, a painting you left half-done, or that home project you forgot about. Whatever it is, with that long weekend ahead, why not pick it up again and maybe even get the whole family involved.

Regardless of where we are in the world, one thing we all have in common, is that COVID-19 has affected the way we now live. As much as things have changed, it is still possible to celebrate festivities and come together with family and friends. Just in ways we never expected! The good news is that countries have begun slowly opening up, and we can look forward to bigger gatherings, activities and travelling in the future. For now, let us be patient and celebrate the best and safest way we can.

Stay safe and have a Happy Chinese New Year!

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