Asia's Grandest Street and Floats Parade: Chingay Parade
This is the first part of a series covering what to do in Singapore and will be quite useful if you ever find yourself on the next flight to South East Asia. Not everybody knows Singapore or where exactly it is. This is not uncommon since Singapore is a very small island and it's that tiny dot just south of Malaysia. However, even if it's very small compared to most countries, its economy is a roaring one. In fact, it is the second most competitive country in the world and the fastest growing economy. This is mainly because the Singapore government, the locals and the foreign talents are all boiled into one society that fosters integration and promotes multiculturalism.
As a result of the influx of foreigners (about 40% of the Singapore population is now made up of foreigners) from centuries ago, the country now recognizes three main races: Malay (14%), Chinese (75%) and Indian (9%). Along with this recognition of the major groups are the celebration of different festivities that showcase the cultural diversity and unique colours that make up Singapore.
One of the most important events in the Chinese community is the celebration of the Chinese New Year. The date fluctuates and depends on the Lunar calendar. Suggested dates to go would be between January and February. During these months, the streets come alive with the different Chinese activities like street dances, dragon dances, colourful lanterns, and a lot more. But there's one event that really brings the whole Chinese New Year together and it's called the Chingay Parade.
What is the Chingay Parade?
Chingay Paradade is celebrated in just two countries: Singapore and Penang, Malaysia to celebrate the Chinese New Year with a bang. From a small parade a couple of years ago, Chingay has now become a massive parade and a major Singapore tourist attraction. You can find the largest floats, dancers, magicians, jugglers, dragon dancers, acrobats, and the list just keeps on going.
The word, Chingay, originated in Penang, Malaysia and it just means "The Art of Masquerade" or just simply "float" so one would not be left wondering why Chingay overflows with different tinges and hues. It is probably the "grandest street and floats parade in Asia, showcasing the rich, vibrant multiculturalism of Singapore and exciting cultures all over the world." (chingay.org.sg)
In Singapore, Chingay was first practiced in the year 1973 when firecrackers where banned throughout the whole city. It was not widely accepted by the majority of the citizens that are made up of Chinese decent because Chinese New Year is supposed to be loud (to ward away evil) and colourful. As a response to the concerns of the citizens, the first floats were paraded through the streets and it has now been termed Chingay Parade.
Let me give you a taste of Singapore's Chingay Parade through these photos... Enjoy!
Participants from the Indian Community. This shows how integrated and diverse the different cultures are in Singapore.
As a very volatile and vulnerable country of about six million people, it is the number one project of the government to promote respect and understanding between the different races living in its boundaries. With platforms such as Chingay Parade, one can see how far Singapore has come to become a society where there is racial integration. It really comes as a surprise how Singapore control its people and how it can boast the lowest crime rate.
Chingay means float. Floats like the one on top should be bursting with colours. If they're not, it's not Chinese New Year.
The Chinese Dragon, the traditional Chinese symbol of growth, prosperity and protection. The Chinese believe they are descendants from dragons and by dancing the dragon dance, they show their respect and gratitude.
"The longer the dragon, the more luck it brings."