A Brief History of Chingay Singapore

Chingay Singapore - Colourfully dressed dancers.

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I thought it'd be strange to turn up for the massive Chingay Parade of Dreams and not know how it all came about. So I've put together a short History of Chingay.

Here goes...

  • In 1880, a massive procession took place in Penang, Malaysia during the Chinese New Year season. Its purpose? To 'welcome the spring' even though this was obviously the Tropics.

  • Huge flags were waved, to the clashing of cymbals and gongs. The performers made their way down the streets with much aplomb.

  • The word Chingay came from a Hokkien phrase which means 'to paint the face and wear elaborate costumes'.

  • The first Chingay performers danced, juggled and waved huge flags on shoulder-carried floats. They had their faces thickly painted and wore elaborate costumes. A tradition derived from ancient China.

  • Over the years, the performing troupes competed against each other. Because of competition,
    • the floats became more colourful and elaborate,
    • donkeys were increasingly used to pull the floats,
    • only the most beautiful girls were allowed to sit atop the floats.

  • After WW2, the traditions spread south to Johore. It underwent some transformation - trucks were used to carry the floats; dragon and lion dances became more noisy yet; stiltwalkers began to entertain the crowds.

  • Then in 1972, 2 persons died from faulty firecracker explosions in Singapore during Chinese New Year. Firecrackers were banned. With the noise so essential for Chinese New Year gone, there was a need to keep the festive atmosphere up the following year. Chingay Singapore was born. The history of Chingay was to change forever.

  • Singapore's first Chingay in 1973 was an all-Chinese affair - lion/dragon dances, big-head dolls, martial arts demonstration, waving of huge flags, stiltwalkers.

  • Chingay 1973 was a huge success. It was repeated every year after that. The other races in Singapore joined in.

  • The Parade decentralised to the housing estates from 1974 to 1984.

  • The Parade moved to Orchard Road in 1985 and has been held there until 2007.

  • Chingay has become really big now - groups from every continent of the world have participated in this eagerly awaited Street Parade.

  • 2008: Chingay Parade moves to the City Hall - Marina Bay area, partly on feedback that more people want to pay for better views of the celebrations.

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