Target families and you'll reach youths too
Reaching out to young people at CNY festivities in Chinatown this year is a good idea, but a wider focus might be better
I have never celebrated the Chinese New Year (CNY) holidays in the Chinatown area, not once in 22 years. Nor have I been to the River Hongbao festival.
My mother goes to Chinatown to shop only in the weeks leading up to CNY, and she normally goes with her sisters or friends.
My whole family is also averse to crowds, which is why we avoid festivals. We typically spend CNY visiting relatives and enjoying potluck meals.
While we don't partake in the festivities, CNY has always been about family for me.
In the past two weeks, I have seen videos on Facebook about the bazaar at Chinatown this year.
My friends posted pictures of themselves posing with ice pops, or blowing smoke out of their noses dragon-style.
All these Instagram-worthy snacks are from YouthStreet in Temple Street, a new section in the yearly CNY bazaar with 12 entrepreneurs selling trendy or atypical snacks.
Attracting hordes of visitors is not that meaningful if they are selfietakers who want to prove they are on to a trend.
This is the first time cooked food is available at the bazaar.
One of the snacks, Dragon's Breath Dessert, is what's behind all the smoke-blowing pictures.
The "smoke" comes from the use of liquid nitrogen at a temperature of minus 196 deg C, which is tossed with meringue cookies.
Another new feature is the YHFlea: Come Lepark Edition.
It is a flea market with more than 100 curated local brands and independent designers on Jan 14 and 15. It also features a handicrafts market, music from local artists and graffiti art.
A spokesman for the Chinatown CNY Celebrations 2017 organising committee said the event saw about 7,000 visitors.
Explaining the new additions to the CNY festivities, the spokesman said they hope to draw more young people to Chinatown to celebrate CNY.
Targeting the young also allows them develop a deeper appreciation for the festival.
The spokesman said: "It is also important that any event looks towards the young generation for longevity."
Reports said River Hongbao is also looking to attract youths, with the introduction of a mobile app and an appearance by crooner Nathan Hartono.
Judging by the number of posts I've seen, their efforts appear to be a success.
But is coating tradition with a sugary gloss of trendiness really necessary?
Attracting hordes of visitors is not that meaningful if they are selfie-takers who want to prove they are on to a trend.
Targeting young people is well-intentioned and a good first step.
But since CNY is about reunion and celebrating as a family, perhaps the focus should be on families instead.
A slew of family-friendly activities would encourage families with young children to visit Chinatown during CNY.
From there, it is easier to get through to the youth.
There are also other ways to attract crowds. Everyone loves a good deal.
For example, the 50 Cents Fest in July last year,held in Chinatown as part of the Singapore Food Festival, drew throngs.
Eighteen dishes, including char kway teow and deep fried oyster cake, were sold at 50 cents each, to evoke the spirit of the 1950s and 1960s.
I visited Chinatown last Saturday. At 9pm, the narrow streets were filled with people, and there was a snaking queue in front of the Dragon's Breath Dessert stall.
Most of the young people in the queue were with their families.
I saw a girl my age teaching her mother how to eat the cookies - you have to blow on them first to prevent frostbite. I also spoke to a few families at the bazaar, and celebrating CNY in Chinatown was a yearly tradition for most of them.
Perhaps time should not be wasted on attracting visitors, but making sure they stay for the right reasons.