Lunar New Year or Chinese New Year (CNY) as it’s commonly known in Singapore isn’t one of my favourite holidays. As a kid, I looked forward to it because of a few reasons. One, it’s one of longest public holidays you get as a student. No other public holiday in Singapore gives you two full days off. Of course, as a kid, I always hoped that CNY would fall on a Thursday so that we had four days in a row without school.

Two, CNY as a kid means getting money. For a kid, it’s that one time of the year where you get extra cash. As an adult, the closest thing I can think of is the bonuses that companies pay out at the end of their financial year. Those, of course, are not guaranteed. Furthermore, CNY is usually a time where people gamble, so that’s an extra chance to make more cash. I was pretty good at the blackjack tables so that usually meant another week’s allowance.

Three, the snacks are awesome. In Singapore, food is generally delicious, to begin with, but the snacks at CNY are on a whole different level. From pineapple tarts to love letters to kueh bahulu to bak kwa.

However, once you get older, CNY starts to become a pain-in-the-ass. First, you keep meeting the same old people that you only meet once a year during CNY. Singapore’s a really small place so if there are people that you only see once a year, it probably means you don’t really want/have to meet them unless you really have to. Furthermore, because you only see them once a year, conversations tend to be awkward and naturally border on the mundane. Conversations get even worse with the older folk that you don’t normally meet because they only start to ask questions that annoy you. e.g. “How are your results?”, “When are you getting married?”, “Do you have a girlfriend/boyfriend?”, “When are you going to have kids?” etc.

So, it’s no surprise that many people head abroad to avoid CNY. After all, two days of public holiday means less leave you have to use. Tickets are now cheap thanks to low-cost carriers. Also, the fact that so many Chinese are celebrating CNY means that you have a lot fewer tourists to contend with in another country. All in, it’s a good time to travel.

The only positive I see in Singapore is that families are getting smaller. This means less visiting of distant relatives as celebrations are mostly within 3 generations. This also means more free time to enjoy the holidays which means more businesses that cater to the retail crowd remain open. In Singapore, most cinemas remain open throughout the period as we also have a good 30% of our population that doesn’t celebrate CNY. All in, it means that CNY is getting to be a more cosy affair with the people that really matter. And I think that’s really what CNY should be about- spending time with those you consider family.