The Chingay Parade is a traditional Chinese New Year procession that has grown in recent years to become a massive street parade, boasting a stunning array of dancers, street floats, jugglers, percussionists, lion and dragon dancers, clowns and acrobats, among others.
The parade has its origins in China, where processions of a similar ilk were held for two weeks after the Lunar New Year to welcome the season of spring. The tradition then moved south when Chinese immigrants began settling in Southeast Asia. Penang in northern Malaysia first had a Chingay procession in the 19th century and the Chingay Parades that you see around the region have its roots there.
The name “Chingay” was coined from its Hokkien dialect equivalent, meaning “the art of costume and masquerade”. Singapore only began having such parades in 1973, after the then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew banned firecrackers in the aftermath of two firecracker-related fatalities the year before. He then proposed the idea of replicating Penang’s Chingay Parade as a safe, colourful and festive replacement for firecrackers.
After satiating your appetite with a Chinese New Year dinner at one of the nation’s many traditional Chinese restaurants, head down to the Formula One Pit Building at the Marina Waterfront for the Chingay Parade. Recently moved from Orchard Road to this purpose-built, stadium-like venue to accommodate more spectators, you’ll get your fill of international and local acts on mobile floats to other varied forms of street gaiety.
Also known as the “Procession of Giant Flags” as flags were first used in the spring processions in China centuries ago, locals party up and down the street of Singapore during the festival as a symbolic gesture of their anticipation of the Spring bloom. Various lion and dragon dances are also held during this time – with acts such as Singapore’s People’s Association Firecracker Dragons Dance, a magnificent and awe-inspiring combination of dance and pyrotechnic acts, where valiant performers weave through acrobatically under bright red burning sparklers.
In recent years, the festival has evolved and adapted with the use of Asian and global influences, with approximately 2,000 performers from various clubs, schools and institutions gyrating to Samba music– and has given the parade a growing reputation as the Mardi Gras of the East – in a myriad of glittering, colourful costumes; the vibe is certainly fun and entertaining.
When you come to watch the procession, you may pick out your favourite float from the entire procession or snap photos of the vibrant and original Chingay Art-Banners, designed by members of the public exclusively for the event.
Parade 1 - 11 Feb 2011 at 8.30pm
Parade 2 - 12 Feb 2011 at 8pm