Chingay (or “chee”) is a Cantonese word for “fierce” or “severe.” It is a celebration that involves a massive street party in the evening, which draws a crowd of several thousand strong. Chingay Celebrations in Singapore traditionally kicks off with a bang in the evening’s first late night gathering. The second and third midnight parades have equally large followings. The first Chingay Parade, which starts early in the morning and lasts over three hours, is the most well-attended of the entire event.
After the midnight parade, the second main parade route kicks off. This route traces a path through central Singapore, and the theme is celebratory firework displays. Fireworks are the traditional decoration for this part of the event, and the second and third parades feature a series of mini-parade floats that light up the sky as they move along the path. Firework displays are spectacular, but are also a nuisance to drivers on the roads. One section of the Chingay parade route actually prohibits the use of fireworks within 200 meters of the end of the parade route.
On the second day of Chingay Celebrations in Singapore, the second main parade route is again filled with hundreds of enthusiastic participants. This route takes participants all the way down to the Marina Bay Sands. It then makes a short trip back up to central Singapore before marching back to the marina. The final Chingay parade takes participants all the way down to the waterfront, where the fireworks display is conducted before the crowd disperses into the restaurants and bars of Singapore.
A typical Chingay celebration features a number of family activities such as pinwheeling down the ayer mast and chasing each other with masks and colorful robes. It is also common for a procession of trucks, buses, and carts to be adorned with festive decorations and large banners that signify the various spirit groups that participate in the parade. One sign that you may not see very often at a Chingay Celebration in Singapore is the “Singapore Red Cross Parade.” The Red Cross is an international volunteer organization that has long been involved in the celebration.
A popular tradition at Chingay Celebrations in Singapore involves participants parading through the city square in a mock red carpet fashion. The ayer molek or lantern festival is based on the ancient Chinese belief that the spirits of ancestors gather around the jalan are molek, or public square in the center of a new town. They line the length of the plan and watch as old Chinese families sing songs, share stories, and play games. It is then that the spirits move to the next home, passing on blessings and good luck to those who will follow.
On this day, Chinese celebrate the 20th day of the Chinese lunar calendar known as the New Year. Known as the Spring Festival in most countries, Chingay is one of the biggest events of the Chinese calendar and includes a parade of important dignitaries, merchants, and officials. The entire city square is decorated as if the newly married couple has just arrived in Singapore, with massive banners, streamers, and colorful flowers strung up along the walls. In addition to the public square, there are many other sites throughout the city that house Chinese dignitaries and vendors selling their products and services to visitors.
The parade makes its way down the main drag of Chinatown, where participants pay respect to the deceased Chinese heritage. The spirit of this ancient event comes alive at this festive celebration as Chinese residents dress up and head out with lanterns, banners, and windchimes as they pass by on foot, bicycle, horseback, carriage, or in large groups. Other dignitaries, merchants, government officials, and other Asian cultural specialists attend the celebrations as well. This marked day is also a time for different types of celebrations such as Chinese cultural displays and traditional dancing.
During the celebrations, Chinatown serves as a point of convergence where different activities take place. Chinese people of different age brackets participate in various games, craft, and dance, all with the same spirit of celebrating Chinese heritage and history. Activities include Chinese food dining, shopping, and strolling around Chinatown carrying different Chinese gifts and items. Throughout the day, participants will be able to watch a live performance by Chinese dance troupe, be entertained by performers, Chinese musical acts, and enjoy the general spirit of the day.