Chingay Parade 2015
Published: February 26, 2015
Chingay Parade 2015, More than four decades since it first began, the Chingay Parade has wowed audiences every Chinese New Year.
The first Chingay saw 2,000 participants taking part. That number has swelled to over 13,000 in recent years and it is still growing.
Chingay – also known as the Parade of Dreams – began in 1973. It was a year of flower-power and flares – the Singapore Zoo opened its doors, and a brand new National Stadium was ready for the Kallang Roar.
The first Chingay Parade took to the streets of Singapore with a riot of colour, song and dance – a procession of lion dancers, flag bearers, wushu masters, and stilt walkers, but not everyone was keen on the show initially.
“People kept on asking me, ‘Is it possible? Is it safe? Are people supporting the idea?’” recounted Madam Lim Ah Yook, a committee member of the People’s Association. “Because the audience missed the firecrackers. They’d rather see firecrackers than see a parade during that time!”
Setting off firecrackers during Chinese New Year festivities came to an end in 1972, with an islandwide ban sparked by a spate of injuries and deaths caused by unsafe explosions.
The first parade was a grand show in the Year of the Ox, depicting aspects of Chinese culture – martial arts and street opera.
From 1976 it took on a multicultural flavour, with the inclusion of performances by the other races.
“In the old days, there were not many people practicing arts and performances, so we were a little worried because we didn’t have a model to follow, so we sat down and cracked our heads, and thought how we should go about it,” said Madam Lim. “But luckily we had a lot of lions, dragons, stilt walkers to form the first parade.”
“In the early days it was quite difficult to get non-Chinese to participate because they believed that the parade was a Chinese religious parade, but it was not true,” she added.
By 1987, that widened to include performances from abroad.
Each decade has seen Chingay take on the flavour and colour of the era. In the late 70s, cheerleading was all the rage. Then in the 80s, performers donned leotards and legwarmers.
But line-ups aside, one of the biggest challenges the parade faced was the weather.
“In 1995, it rained – the only year it has rained so far,” recounted Madam Lim. “That year, after the group lined up, it started to rain heavily. We were so worried that the participants would not perform, especially the international group. Luckily, they performed even in heavy rain – somersaults and all. The foreigners also went ahead. All of us were so happy, that we cried.”
The highlight that year was a dancing dragon, and the leader of the group was Mr Roger Ting. Born into a family of martial artists, Mr Ting has been participating in the parade since 1975.