SINGAPORE - The Chingay Parade returned with a bang on Friday, the first fully in-person edition after two years of digital and hybrid formats.
Despite the gloomy weather, crowds and snaking queues started forming around 7pm at the entrance of the F1 Pit Building.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong opened the street parade to cheers as he wished the crowd in English and Mandarin: “May you have good health, prosperity, good luck and much joy in the Year of the Rabbit.”
The celebrations then kicked off with dragon and lion dances to mark Chinese New Year.
The spectators were next treated to a thrilling display of acrobatics and stunts by BMX bikers, skateboarders and parkour practitioners, commonly known as traceurs.
Ethnic performances dotted the multicultural celebration, which concluded with a triumphant joint performance by the different racial groups to celebrate the diversity in Singapore.
For singer-songwriter Amni Musfirah, 28, preparations for the parade started in August 2022. She wrote the theme song Embrace Tomorrow, which was inspired by her struggles during the pandemic, when the full-time musician’s projects and shows were cancelled.
The line “Let them try to break me down to dust. I’ll build myself again with all the scars” is her favourite part of the song.
“I wanted to highlight the struggles, but also the hope and willingness to move forward,” she told The Straits Times.
In all, more than 10,000 people are participating in the Chingay celebrations.
They include mother-and-son duo Veronica Anne Lincoln, 40, and Terry Bernard Ong, 16.
The pair represent the Eurasian Association and performed traditional dances.
“It’s a bonding session for both of us,” Ms Lincoln, a nurse, said.
The pair have spent at least two days a week practising for the performance since last October, and she hopes the dances will help younger Eurasians learn about their culture and history.
But Chingay also means something more to her.
“It’s about putting race and religion aside, and coming together as one harmonious Singapore with racial unity,” she said.
One spectator was so thrilled that he said he plans to fly his family from India to catch the 2024 parade.
“It was my first Chingay, and I must say that each and every performance was fantastic and fabulous,” said Mr Nataraja Hiremath, an accounts manager at Metropolitan Wireless International.
A dazzling display of fireworks closed out the first day of Chingay 2023, marking a successful return for the annual celebration.
The parade will continue on Saturday, and is expected to draw close to 30,000 people. Tickets for both days sold out earlier this week.
Chingay was started in 1973 to amp up the Chinese New Year festivities after firecrackers were banned. Over the years, it has evolved into Singapore’s biggest multicultural celebration.
This year, organisers also included new activities such as the Chingay 2023 Taster Experience from Sunday to next Thursday.
It will feature unique exhibits, behind-the-scenes tours, light shows and performances.
People can also try their hand at urban sports, dance, and art workshops run by local artists.