As part of the Mid-Autumn Festival, there was a Mass Lantern Walk in Chinatown this past Saturday night.
We arrived at the start of the walk just a few minutes before it actually started (aka about 20 minutes late due to traffic), and just in time for the Lion Dance. It was loud and chaotic, which are two good words to describe the entire experience (but not in a bad way). I had picked up some cheap lanterns at cold storage and had dropped a glow stick in them (traditionally laterns use fire which seemed like a bad combination with my 3 year old and a paper lantern). I definitely felt a bit of lantern envy when I saw the amazing variety–the straight up spherical paper ones, but also elaborate ones in the shapes of the dragons and such, themed ones (like a thomas the tank engine lantern-no joke), and battery-operated ones that lit up and did stuff (a bug with flapping wings). Sadly it due to the low light and constant movement, I had to toss a number of photos–it was not the kind of environment that is tri-pod friendly (although I, along with many other amateur photographers had mine with me).
Ellie is not amused
Ellie had been sick all day Friday, but had seemingly bounced back on Saturday. She insisted she wanted to go to the walk. Although she hasn’t sat in a stroller in almost a year (and even then mostly to transport her around airports when she was too tired to walk), she ASKED for her stroller. This should’ve been our first clue that it wasn’t a good idea. But we tried. About a minute before the walk began, Ellie started crying and wanted to go home. Ravi decided to take her home and insisted Rhi and I stay (especially as he could tell I really wanted to do the walk, and knew I’d been looking forward to it).
Doing the walk (which went up a main street, down a side street and then looped on New Bridge road), I really enjoyed the diversity of Singapore. You hear a lot of talk about how diverse Singapore is, but it’s moments like the walk that really show it. In the picture above you can see the Mid-Autumn Festival’s lanterns strung in front of the Sri Mariamman Temple. For a spell I walked next to a Buddhist mom and her daughter and we chatted about pre-schools. Later we walked past some older Aunties who chatted up Rhi in Mandarin (I may not know much Mandarin, but I know Mei-Mei for Little Sister). We shared street space with women in Saris holding their lanterns. Expats galore took part. And no one seemed out of place. It’s just how Singapore is. (Which is not to say that there aren’t simmering xenophobic tensions, class tensions, etc) This de rigeur diversity is absolutely one of my favorite parts of Singaporean life.
At points I felt a little bad about bringing Rhi to such a loud gathering without getting her some ear plugs or some such (if you watch the video you’ll understand–we were never NOT near some very loud drumming–awesome drumming–but loud). I wasn’t sure if I should’ve taken her (as opposed to sending her with Ravi), but she loved it. She loved the lanterns, she was interested in what was happening, she flirted shamelessly with everyone who noticed her, and even appeared unfazed by the loud drumming.
Dancers. Can someone tell me more about them? If I were in the US, I’d think of the outfits as Polynesian inspired. I’ve never seen anything like them related back to Chinese Culture. Please, share in comments!
Ditto. Please share in comments if you know the significance of the women dressed like this. I feel like I was missing out on a lot of the significance and nuance of what was happening around me, and I’d love to know more.
This drum team was AMAZING. I loved that there were a number of women (I’ve mostly seen men when I’ve seen this style of drumming at Lion or Dragon dances) and I love the synchronicity and drama of their movements (as well as the sound of the drums).
There was a main stage just before the walk ended, and if you check the video you’ll see the group performing at the end of that video.
So here we have it, another experience in my quest to explore more of Singapore. We were in town for the Lantern Festival of 2010, and tried to do a few family friendly things– see here, here, and here. Last year we were still out of town during the festival. But this was our first year really trying to engage with the festival. Ironic, then, that unless they’re going to be up for a few more days, we’ll have missed out on the Clarke Quay lantern displays (we kept trying to see them with the girls, but every time we planned to, something would come up)–anyone know if they’re already gone, or how much longer they’ll be there?
I would’ve liked to have stayed longer, but I was needed at home, so shortly after we finished the walk, Rhi and I left, missing out on the night market and other experiences. Below is a video with various clips of the sights and sounds from that evening. Sorry for any shakiness in the video–hard to push a stroller with one hand, record with the other and walk all at the same time.