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River Hongbao 2024 Year of the Dragon

River Hongbao 2024 is upon us again this Chinese new year (CNY) of the Dragon. It is a vibrant festival and spectacle held at Singapore Gardens by the Bay renowned for its elaborate lantern displays that adorn the Garden’s festival grounds.

The God of Fortune highlight.
The God of Fortune highlight.

Furthermore, it showcases intricate designs depicting traditional Chinese myths, zodiac animals, and auspicious symbols. As a visitor, exploring the festival is an immersive experience, with the meadows and Supertree grove area accessible on foot. Let’s take a visiting River Hongbao 2024 at the Singapore Gardens by the Bay.

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Welcome to River Hongbao 2024
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Event map
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Bayfront dragonfly lake frogs

On some background, “River Hongbao” was derived from the term “hongbao,” meaning traditional red packets given during New Year celebrations. Established in 1987, River Hongbao in Singapore holds historical and cultural significance as a staple CNY event. Additionally, the festival has grown into one of the most anticipated events on the Singaporean calendar, merging the city’s modern skyline with the rich traditions of Chinese New Year.

River Hongbao Entrance Archways

Golden garden birdsong arch
Welcome arch at Golden garden inspired by birdsong and the aroma fragrant flowers.

Moreover, as with last year’s River Hongbao event, River Hongbao 2024 maintains a familiar format, with three entrances: one by the meadows, another at the visitor center by the conservatory with the Golden archway, and a third by the bayfront archway from the Marina Bay Sands Bayfront MRT. Security screening at each of the entrances is quick. There are also no crowd capacity limits or tickets required to enter the venue this year.

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niao yu hua xiang
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Golden garden birds
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Entrance lights

Each entrance arch has a unique theme, such as the Welcome arch at Golden garden inspired by birdsong and the aroma fragrant flowers (niao yu hua xiang), with bird shaped lanterns showcasing delicate blossom in vibrant hues which comes in spring.

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Bayfront welcome arch
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Golden arch at Meadows
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Uncle Ringo meadows fairground

Secondly, the Bayfront welcome arch denotes wonderful happenings year on year (hao shi lian nian). It features a grand tiled roof surrounded by colourful butterflies welcoming guests from the Bayfront MRT and flora fantasy attraction area into the river Hongbao meadows grounds.

Golden arch at Meadows is inspired by poetic phrase Ying Chun Hua Kai.
Golden arch at Meadows is inspired by poetic phrase Ying Chun Hua Kai.

Lastly, the Golden arch at Meadows is inspired by poetic phrase Ying Chun Hua Kai symbolising blossoming of colourful flora during the spring periods. Three arch showing “spring” as styled by the Chinese character for Spring in Abstract style, stylised by decorative and lit orange flower petal motifs. This archway leads into the meadows and Uncle Ringo meadows fairground area, more on that later.

Animal Zodiac at the Meadows

Additionally, the meadows area houses adorable lanterns representing the 12 animals of the zodiac.

Animal Zodiac at the Meadows.
Animal Zodiac at the Meadows.

This year’s art style leans towards a toony-shouty style with a “comic style” emphasis on each animal, making it one of my favourite center pieces here.

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Horse and rat
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Chicken and goat
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Rabbit and Monkey

Also, each of the zodiac animals form part of a musical band, each making a din with their own instruments from gongs, drums and trumpets. Even the Dragon lantern here is shown beating drums, complete with a moving head, adding to the festive atmosphere.

Zodiac animals with instruments
Zodiac animals making a din with their own instruments.

This sector is also where you can find a large video wall, the Dragon wishing hearts well, allowing you to ring in the new year for prosperity by throwing coins at the bells within heart shaped perimeter.

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Meadows giant screen
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Dragon wishing hearts
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Aroma of Affections

Also, the zodiac zone also features lantern displays like the Aroma of Affections, and a water feature with lantern goldfishes symbolizing ever-flowing prosperity (nian nian you yu).

nian nian you yu display
nian nian you yu water and coral display.

It signifying ever-flowing prosperity with underwater seascape with corals and seashells. Rounding up the sector here, you can also find a row of shops here with products on sale as well as a feng shui talk area.

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Aroma of Affections Fishes
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Shops
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CNY Talks

Majestic Dragon and God of Fortune

Majestic Dragon and God of Fortune
Majestic Dragon and God of Fortune at the super tree grove region.

The highlight of the River Hongbao has to be the super tree grove region. Supertree linkway is lined with overhead lanterns leading you into the supertree grove area. The highlight will of course be the central space be the Year of the Dragon and God of fortune lanterns.

Supertree grove archway entrance.
Supertree grove archway entrance.
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God of Fortune close up
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Dragon closeup
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POSB Huat

Here, the dragon, suspended over patrons with Marina Bay Sands in the background, is a spectacular sight. Also, the God of Fortune statue, presented by POSB bank, adds to the festive charm.

POSB squirrel mascots Smiley
POSB squirrel mascots Smiley!

If you are lucky, you can find POSB squirrel mascots roaming about the Gardens too for photo opportunities.

Dragon around the supertrees
The dragon twines around the supertrees.

Also, the area hosts various performances, live music, and events, including fireworks displays, creating a lively atmosphere.

Live music on stage at the Supertree grove
Live music on stage at the supertree grove.
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Main performance stage
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Overhead lights
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Vast space

Notable lanterns here includes one called Savouring moments, enduring memories, into a world of durian delight (liu lian bu she), where the local fruit delicacies brings families and loved ones together.

Savouring moments
Savouring moments (liu lian bu she).

Also, on display here is the Reaching new heights lantern (Bu Bu gao sheng). It depicting embracing technologies and Singapore pursuit for embracing technologies innovation. Technologies shown here, includes snippets of robot automation, space travel as well as VR/AR headsets.

Bu Bu gao sheng technologies.
Bu Bu gao sheng depicting embracing technologies.

Meadows and Uncle Ringo Fairground

Family fairground area
Family rides with an expanded fairground area.

Moreover, the expanded Uncle Ringo fairground in the meadows area is a popular spot on weekends, featuring a large selection of family-friendly rides as well as catering to the older thriller seekers with thrill flat-rides like a centrifuge spinner.

centrifuge spinner thrill ride
Nice thrill flat-rides like a centrifuge spinner.

Notably, Uncle Ringo is also celebrating their 40th anniversary this year. Kudos to them!

Uncle Ringo Midway games
Midway games at the Uncle Ringo Fairground.
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Bumper cars
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Dumbo flyer
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Classic bumper cars

While the fairground rides here are not as impressive as fun fairs from the ’90s, the fairground still attracts a lively crowd, even on drizzly weekdays. There is also a good selection of rides for family and grown ups.

The meadows and fairgrounds area.
The meadows and fairgrounds area.

Additionally, The fairground also includes a small exhibition covering elements of early Chinese culture and commerce. It is a short 30 minute walk-through exhibition with a small lantern mural at it’s archway entrance.

Chinese culture and commerce exhibition
Chinese culture and commerce exhibition at the meadows.
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Exhibition entrance
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Traditions
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Chinese culture and commerce

The exhibition covers Chinese new year trades of food, clothing and services over the year, with several murals for photo opportunities. Interestingly, the Bak Gua counter has smoke coming out from it too, while the chicken coop has life chicken noises coming from it.

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Bak Kua
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Commerce zone
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CNY through time

The exhibition ends with a vote counter asking visitors to vote via buttons whether physical or online shopping is the way to go for the future (Currently physical stores are leading)

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Clothing
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Photo opportunities
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Trade shops

Wrapping up the lanterns here is the Five directions god of wealth lantern, it refers to 5 directions- east, west, south, north, and the center, implying that you can gain fortune wherever you are.

Five directions god of wealth lantern
Five directions god of wealth lantern.

Also, here in this sector, you can also find the Wang Zi Cheng Long lantern in the meadows area represents parents’ hopes for their children’s future achievements, portrayed through dynamic dragon dance performances.

Wang Zi Cheng Long lantern in the meadows area represents parents' hopes for their children's future achievements.
Wang Zi Cheng Long lantern in the meadows area represents parents’ hopes for their children’s future achievements.

Cultural Exchange and Understanding

Wrapping up, beyond the festive celebrations, River Hongbao serves as a platform for cultural exchange and understanding among Singapore’s diverse population. The festival promotes traditional customs and provides insights into early Chinese culture and commerce, as seen in the exhibition by the night market and street food tent.

Bountiful Returns on the dragonfly lake.
Bountiful Returns on the dragonfly lake.

Noteworthy is the large display called “Bountiful Returns” floating on the dragonfly lake, depicting an early scene of the Singapore River.

Food street tent
Food street tent, though it can get rather smokey in here.

In conclusion, River Hongbao 2024 at the Singapore Gardens by the Bay offers a captivating experience, blending modernity with traditional Chinese New Year festivities. Following our preview first-look at the lanterns a couple of weeks back.

Dragonflies by the dragonfly lake
Wrapping up with Dragonflies lanterns by the dragonfly lake and Bayfront entrance.

The festival’s historical and cultural significance, coupled with the elaborate lantern displays, makes River Hongbao an event worth visiting this Chinese new year. It is great for all ages, locals and tourists. The night event runs from 8th to 17th February 2024, admission to the event is free.

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