New Year at the old harbour

1 01 2015

An occasion that is celebrated in a big way in Singapore in the New Year, which since 2005, sees fireworks illuminate the night sky against the backdrop of the ultra modern skyline at Marina Bay. The occasion, providing an opportunity not just to usher in the new year, but also to celebrate Singapore’s amazing transformation over the years, especially so this year with Singapore celebrating 50 years of independence.

Fireworks over Marina Bay at the stroke of midnight, 2015.

Fireworks over Marina Bay at the stroke of midnight, 2015.

While the 2015 countdown at Marina Bay, marks the tenth anniversary of the event being held there, the location has in fact been one that has traditionally been associated with the New Year – as the Inner Roads of the old harbour, it was where a New Year’s Day event that could be traced back to 1839 – just 15 years after Raffles founded modern Singapore, the New Year Sea Sports, had been held annually – except for the intervention of war, until the end of the 1960s.

A kolek race held during the New Year Sea Sports, 1951 (National Archives of Singapore).

The sea sports event, held in the waters off Collyer Quay, featured a series of races with traditional boats such as koleks, as well as competitions that ranged from tub-races, greasy poles, swimming, diving and even cock-fighting and attracted participants from the islands not just of Singapore, but also from those in the Riau Archipelago – maintaining a centuries old cultural connection that has in the post-independent years been broken with the tighter enforcement of border controls.

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A tub race during the sea sports event, 1960 (Straits Times).

Tracing its origins to a regatta that was organised in 1834, five years before it became an annual event by European merchants, the sea sports event would draw crowds in the tens of thousands to Collyer Quay. With the introduction of races that featured traditional boats, the event would keep alive Singapore’s coastal inhabitants connections with the sea for well over a century. Sadly, as with many of the traditions that were very much a part of who we were, the new year races have long been abandoned in a Singapore that cares little for its past.

A greasy-pole competition during the New Year Sea Sports in 1929 (National Archives of Singapore).

The tens of thousands that are now drawn to the areas where the Inner Roads were – much of which now forms the western part of the new world that is Marina Bay, are treated to a very different spectacle these days. The especially big celebration  at this year’s countdown event included a concert on The Float @ Marina Bay – a temporary floating stage that was originally intended to stand-in as an event venue in the time it took the National Stadium to be constructed; saw the likes of popular local artistes such as the Dim Sum Dollies, Stefanie Sun and Dick Lee and Kit Chan, as well as popular K-Pop group BIGBANG create a big bang.

K-Pop group BIGBANG - clearly the highlight of the evening's lineup on stage.

K-Pop group BIGBANG – clearly the highlight of the evening’s lineup on stage.

As might have been expected, BIGBANG drew the loudest response of screams from the youthful crowd. It would however have been Kit Chan’s rendition of local favourite “Home” for which she was accompanied by Dick Lee – the song’s composer, on piano just before the turn of the year, that made the event especially memorable for all of Singapore as it prepares to celebrate its jubilee year.

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Stefanie Sun

Stefanie Sun

The city's ultra modern skyline - illuminated in colours selected for the New Year.

The city’s ultra modern skyline – illuminated in colours selected for the New Year.

Dick Lee and Kit Chan gave a stirring performance of Home.

Dick Lee and Kit Chan gave a stirring performance of Home.

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A sneak peek at NDP 2014

11 07 2014

I got an opportunity to have a sneak peek at what this year’s National Day Parade (NDP) had to offer at a rehearsal held on Saturday, taking a few photographs that accompany this post. The rehearsal was held a week before the series of rehearsals that Primary 5 students will attend as part of the National Education (NE) Show programme  starting on 12 July 2014, in the lead-up to the actual parade, all of which offers a glimpse of what the highly anticipated parade has to offer.

Always something to look forward to - the fireworks sign-off.

Always something to look forward to – the fireworks sign-off.

The audience seen as the lights come on ...

The audience seen as the lights come on …

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Beyond the always spectacular signature show of fireworks that now sign all NDPs off, the parade and ceremony, the flypast and the medley of National songs, this year’s NDP will see the introduction of a Military Tattoo, which for the first time, will open the Parade and Ceremony. The 7-minute band display, will involve some 164 personnel, including drummers from the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS) who will perform together with members of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Band, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) Band, the Silent Precision Drill Squad (SPDS), the National Cadet Corp (NCC) Band, and the National Police Cadet Corp (NPCC) Band.

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The Parade and Ceremony itself, entitled “A Parade with a Heart”, has been aligned with this year’s NDP theme, “Our People, Our Home” and consists of five Heartbeats. The five moments will honour the organisations that have contributed in the defence, social and economic areas, pay tribute to our pioneers, get the audience singing in a sing-along of Singapore songs, celebrate the family and showcase the SAF and Home team’s capabilities in the Dynamic Defence Display.

The Leopard 2 MBT will feature in the Dynamic Display segment.

The Leopard 2-SG Main Battle Tank will feature in the Dynamic Display segment.

The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) Surface-to-Air PYTHON-5 and DERBY-Short Range (SPYDER-SR) ground-based air defence system - another asset the audience will see during the Dynamic Display.

The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) Surface-to-Air
PYTHON-5 and DERBY-Short Range (SPYDER-SR) ground-based air defence
system – another asset the audience will see during the Dynamic Display.

A navy RHIB during practice for the Dynamic DIsplay Segment.

A navy RHIB during practice for the Dynamic Display Segment.

Always something to look forward to at the NDP, are the so-called funpacks, which contain both giveaways as well as items for use during the parade itself. This year’s very brightly coloured funpacks were designed by a group of 15 students from the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College Central’s School of Design and Media. Included in the funpacks are button badges – the result of the NDP 2014 Funpack Print Design Contest from which nine designs were chosen to be printed into button badges. Among the winning entries is one from 13 year-old Ong Zheng Jie Joshua, which centres on a tree that symbolizes the strong and prosperous Singapore built by our ancestors.

Funpack distribution.

Funpack distribution.

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The parade this year features some 35 marching contingents, with four Guard-Of-Honour (GOH) contingents, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Colours Party, the Combined Band and 29 other contingents from the SAF, Home Team, uniformed groups as well as social and economic organisations. Numbering some 2,000 participants, the parade will be the largest Parade & Ceremony segment ever held at the Floating Platform.

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Celebrating the Lunar New Year at Marina Bay

12 02 2013

In celebration of the Lunar New Year, The Float @ Marina Bay once again plays host to River Hongbao. The annual event, now in its 27th year, is organised by Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations (SFCCA), Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce (SCCCI), Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and People’s Association (PA) with the aim to allow both locals and visitors to immerse themselves in the festive atmosphere. This year’s fair sees a display of lanterns including some of the largest which have been designed and specially handcrafted for River Hongbao on display at The Float. This combined with the host of fringe activities including amusement rides and carnival games; nightly shows on the main stage and; brought specially this year – food and handicraft from Guangdong Province, will certainly make this year’s River Hongbao one that will certainly be worth a visit.

The Guangdong Arts Troupe during the Countdown Ceremony on Saturday.

The Guangdong Arts Troupe during the Countdown Ceremony on Saturday.

The Float coming to life for River Hongbao 2013.

The Float coming to life for River Hongbao 2013.

The lanterns will definitely be a draw this year – the most eye-catching one being the towering 18 metre tall God of Wealth, as well as two large Screen Lanterns, which measuring 30 metres by 10 metres, will certainly not be missed. The lanterns have all been locally designed and handcrafted by craftsmen in China and also include zodiac lanterns – 12 of them each with a zodiac animal – the one with the snake will of course be taking centre stage. One rather interesting lantern is that resembles a Chinese Opera or Wayang stage – with lantern puppets as well as puppet show performances at selected times throughout the day. Visitors can also look forward to receiving fortune numbers from the God of Wealth at two hourly intervals from 1 to 11 pm.

The lanterns will add light and colour to The Float over the nine days.

The lanterns will add light and colour to The Float over the nine days.

The 18 metre tall God of Wealth.

The 18 metre tall God of Wealth.

The zodiac lantern featuring the snake.

The zodiac lantern featuring the snake.

A floating lantern.

A floating lantern.

A lantern featuring giant pandas.

A lantern featuring giant pandas.

Besides the lanterns, the happenings on the main stage which comes alive every evening, should also not be missed. The shows on the main stage will over the nine evenings, feature performances by both local and foreign performers, including acts which hail from China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia.  The highlight includes the performances which feature dancers from the National Taiwan University of Arts and the Nanfang Song and Dance Company, as well as acrobats from Shantou Acrobatic and Magic Troupe. In addition to these acts, the evening of 13 February will see a “Local Talent Night”,  14 February a “Youth Night” which showcases upcoming young talents and 15 February, a “SFCCA Night” during which the clan associations will put up both Mandarin as well as perfromances in dialects. The last evening (16 February) will see a “Harmony Night” when the different ethnic groups come together in a grand finale. For more information on the programme, please visit the River Hongbao’s Programme page. River Hongbao 2013 runs from 8 to 16 February 2013. More information on River Hongbao can also be found at the event’s website and Facebook Page.

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Further information on River Hongbao 2013:

Working with Guangdong

As part of efforts to further cultural cooperation with Guangdong Province, River Hongbao will be partnering the Department of Culture and Department of Tourism of Guangdong Province to bring the region’s highlights to Singapore. Visitors to The Float will be entertained by the Guangdong Arts Troupe, which comprises of performers from the highly acclaimed Nanfang Song and Dance Company and acrobats from Shantou Acrobatic and Magic Troupe. Guangdong is also well known for its popular Cantonese cuisine so expect your tastebuds to be tantalized by the region’s delicacies available at the River Hongbao Food Street. Handicrafts from from different provinces of Guangdong like silk scarves from Shunde, Guangzhou bone and jade sculptures, Foshan paper cuttings and souvenirs from The Musuem of Dr Sun Yat Sen will also be available for visitors to bring a small piece of Guangdong back with them.

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River Hongbao Food Street

Continuing with 2012’s success, River Hongbao’s Food Street will bring back last year’s winning local fare like Char Kway Teow, Hainanese Chicken Rice, Fried Hokkien Noodles, Satay Bee Hoon, Oyster Omelette, as well as Asian street favourites from Taiwan and Thailand. Guangdong chefs will also be flown in to entice palates with popular Guangdong delicacies like Grilled Quail’s Eggs, Soup Dumplings, Oysters steamed with garlic mince, Traditional double boiled soups and many more.

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Memory Collection Drive

This year, River Hongbao will work together with the Singapore Memory Project (SMP) to collect memories of Chinese New Year celebrations in Singapore. Visitors can share their memories of the festive traditions or past River Hongbao events at the Memory Collection Drive. For memories contributed, they will receive specially designed hongbao packets, while stocks last. These memories will enable future generations of Singaporeans to understand the collective journey of our nation and the different facets of Singapore. Members of the public can also submit photos and stories via singaporememory.sg or the SG Memory iOS App.

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Minister for Prime Minister’s Office Mr Lim Swee Say joining the countdown celebrations.

Minister for Prime Minister’s Office Mr Lim Swee Say joining the countdown celebrations.

The fireworks display at the countdown.

The fireworks display at the countdown.