When I was a kid and first heard about ‘Chingay’, I thought it was a festival for the Chinese Gays. The festival was actually celebrated as an elaborate parade of costumes on floats. This probably began from the ‘wayangs’ which also has vibrant stages and costumes. I had one thing correct. It was initially a festival by the Chinese community in Singapore, usually during Chinese New Year, celebrating the zodiac year.
According to Chingay’s official blog, the word ‘Chingay’ is translated from the Mandarin zhuang yi (妆艺), ‘which means “the art of costume and masquerade” in the Hokkien dialect’.
Chingay became an official street parade after 1973 and it turned muticultural in 1976. Since 1987, Chingay is a festival with international tropes and artistes.
I began thinking about this again recently as Chingay is now moving into the heartlands from the city. This will get more people interested and aware of the festival if one hasn’t seen it. I haven’t. The thought of going to the city with limited driving routes due to road closure, crowds, crowds on public transport, are enough to put me off. If the festival is extended to heartlands with floats and parades moving down some streets, I think that will increase the popularity of Chingay beyond just a Chinese New Year tradition, to a global level of ‘mardi gras’. It is different across countries but the festival is ‘franchised’ to various countries. Typically a festival in the Anglican and Catholic countries, this is now a street parade and celebration of national and global proportions.
The Mardi Gras Carnival is the most popular Brazilian holiday and that is also the peak of its tourism when she attracts about 70% of its tourists during this time.
So, I feel the Chingay in Singapore, originally celebrated by the Chinese pugilistic communities has potential in developing this festival into a major street festival in Singapore to even a global proportion as this is one of the uniquely Singapore festivals on the first weekend of Chinese New Year.
We could have some roads closed and turned into walking streets (yay to having less vehicles), it could also increase creativity across ages and communities, a tourist festival (more tools for STB), might move into a gazetted holiday on Monday following the weekend. Big smiles to that.
I’m looking forward to Chingay 2015 this weekend when we celebrate the Special SG50 edition. Tickets are available at SISTIC. However, I’m also looking out for the Heartland edition which starts in March. Or 14 March for Marine Parade. The parade in the heartlands is in its infancy and probably has room to improve. It has to move away from its strong political/government association for one.
If you are in Singapore and have gone for Chingay previously, let me know what you think and your opinion of it.
Cheers to a Ramtastic start to the Lunar New Year!