One of the best places in Singapore to welcome the Chinese New Year must be the Thian Hock Keng Temple. It is one of the oldest temples in Singapore and their Chinese New Year programs are designed towards religious, cultural and social needs of visitors.
Since it is the year of the rabbit, the temple entrance has 4 very cute rabbit sculptures welcoming visitors displayed alongside program banners.
Thian Hock Keng's Chinese New Year Eve program
A few hours before midnight, the traditional Chinese puppet performance began across the street. Nearing mid night, a group of Buddhist venerables began New Year prayers.
As the time drew closer to arrival of the rabbit, the God of Wealth descended into Thian Hock Keng accompanied by lion dance. After paying his respects, the God of Wealth began distributing candies and posing for photos for the excited audience.
Next, various lions and dragons enter the temple. The most captivating dragon dance, judging by the applause and intensity of camera flashes, is probably the performance by a group of martial monks who integrated the art of dragon dance with acrobatics.
See how the performers used their body to create formations
moving the dragon in the air!
The martial monks also presented the audience with a martial arts performance. This was followed by the lion dances and giant puppets with a disco twist. There was also a pair of rabbits moving round to send their New Year greetings and to pose for pictures.
It is not difficult to see the effort invested by the management to welcome visitors and their notion of visitors includes anyone who is interested because there is always something for everyone.
In the main prayer hall, there is a no photography sign to respect the worshipping visitors. Beyond that are, visitors are welcome capture the special moments of the night.
Programs are also communicated in Chinese and English and usually with explanations of the event. There are also brochures about the history of the temple available for those curious about its background.
For the busy worshippers, they can buy a nicely packaged prayer bag with all items required for prayers. The bag comes with joss sticks, longevity buns, prosperity cake, candies and Chinese tea.
These thoughtful touches do seem to make a difference as evidenced by the turn out. Despite the rain, the temple became more and more crowded towards mid night and visitors across all age groups were there. Some were there for prayers, some to take pictures and others to enjoy the performances or just to experience the New Year atmosphere.
There is also an increasing presence of non-Chinese visitors over the years; other ethnic groups, expats, tourists. Their presence is a good indicator of the event’s success and attractiveness. And of course, it is always good to share the special night with fellow Singaporeans and friends around the world.
The Rabbit has finally arrived and definitely, many people are looking forward to another Chinese New Year eve at Thian Hock Keng temple.
Event date: 2 February 2011, Wednesday
30th day of the 12th lunar month, year of the tiger