Sunday, January 22, 2017

Singapore Chinese New Year Firecrackers Banned


Here's a pretty Singapore poem written some years ago:

New Year's Morning 
 (by Lee Tzu Pheng)

The children come searching
among the scattered red of the road 
for unexploded crackers,
turning over the charred heaps
and eagerly picking up one or two;
the night's dews have made them damp,
they no longer sound sharply,
but even a flash and a pop
is an artistic success,
an event of power.

Their small faces smile a celebration
as echoes rock the neighbourhood
machine-gun into the new year.

Federal Anthology of Poetry 1
(Federal Publications (S) Pte Ltd 1981)

During the years before fire crackers were banned in Singapore, children hunt for the ones that had not been exploded on the streets. The adults had long strings of them, hung from higher floors of buildings or cranes. And as 60's Chinese New Year music filled the air from loudspeakers, the firecrackers exploded in unison... It was fun, fun, fun.

"A partial ban on firecrackers was imposed in March 1970 after a fire killed six people and injured 68. This was extended to a total ban in August 1972, after an explosion that killed two people and an attack on two police officers attempting to stop a group from letting off firecrackers in February 1972.

However, in 2003, the authorities allowed firecrackers to be set off during the festive season. At the Chinese New Year light-up in Chinatown, at the stroke of midnight on the first day of the Lunar New Year, firecrackers were set off under controlled conditions by the Singapore Tourism Board.

Other occasions where firecrackers were allowed to be set off were determined by the tourism board or other approved organizations. However, they were not allowed to be commercially sold - Wiki."

If readers were to search 'exploded firecrackers on the streets' on Google Images, Singaporeans today must be grateful to our late PM Lee Kuan Yew for banning them in August, 1972.

A Happy Lunar New Year of The Rooster 2017 to All.

Images: National Heritage Board, Singapore.
Video: Vienne Lu: LearnHowToChinese.


Roger said...

I have to confess that I was one of the desperate ones scouring for unexploded firecrackers. Wonderful images! A pity the younger generations will never be able to experience the excitement of yesteryear's CNY.

Victor said...

We would buy a packet, take apart the individual firecrackers and then light them one by one. This was done to make one packet last a long time.

Sometimes we would even unwrap the red paper covering individual fire crackers and take out the black "gun powder". We put the powder in a heap and then light it up and cause a mini fireball.

I remember putting a milk can over a fire cracker before light it. The can would be blown up to the ceiling.

It was so much fun!

Nan @ Nan Tsab said...

hey andy! Hygdsappy CNY 2010! long live and prosper!

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

To Roger:
I tried looking for that one unexploded cracker amidst the sea of red but never succeeded.

It's an experience unparalleled.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

To Victor:
Yes, and it's irritating, especially with the adults. Could you have been the cause of the great fire in Singapore?

Sometimes we just light a firecracker in our hand and throw it at others.

Dangerous indeed.

But it's some of the songs I remember, the Chinese New Year songs fom the 40s.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hey Nan,
Thanks for writing and the good wishes.

Selamat panjang umor Nan... You too!


ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

This post has been rejuvenated with one of my favourite local poems about Chinese New Year.

Anonymous said...

Hi Andy,

We used to search for the un-exploded firecrackers in Sydney when I was a kid as well. Where I live now (Darwin) is one of the last places in Australia where it is still legal to sell fireworks for private use. It only happens once a year (for Territory Day, the day we got self-government), but you hear fireworks going off year-round, as people horde them and let them of for private festivities, like birthdays. We also have lots of public firework displays.



FL said...

Hi, Andy, I lived through the years before the Govt ban on fire crackers. I remember that in those years even before the clock struck at midnight to welcome the lst day of lunar new year, you could hear the sound of fire crackers far and near and in all directions around the island during the CNY eve. The fire crackers were then already on sales at street corners in push carts and shops about two to three weeks before lst day CNY.

I also recall that on CHAP GOH MAY (last day of CNY celebration), many office workers (myself included) were allowed to dismiss about an hour early to allow them get home early before the start of the evening non-stop display of fire crackers all over the island. For afternoon session classes, students in schools were also dismissed early. Those were the days only ........ Andy, happy rooster year 2017 !

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

I am glad I rejuvenated this post since finding Lee Tzu Pheng's poem.

To FL:

Thanks again to FL who has contributed to this blog many, many times with his stories about Singapore in the past.

His tales have always been from first hand experience, very detailed and especially positive, as many of us went through tumultuous years. I do recall now after FL's explanation about Chap Goh May, which 'officially closes' the festivities 15 days after it started.

But of course, we were all still eating the goodies on the table and we can even hear distant crackers intermittently after the two weeks of feasting and drinking.

To Steve Farram:

Thanks also to Steven Farram, whom I hope will come back to the fold. Just like FL he has been arming this blog with a lot of vinyl record information since the blog first started.

Anonymous said...

I never had a chance to lit firecracker. I only witnessed it at chinatown and it was quite far away from stage. However, every year will use party popper to welcome lunar new year!

James Kwok said...

Those fire-crackering days were before most Singaporeans began living in high-rise apartments. Back in 1975, after the banning of firecrackers, I had a terribly nasty experience. I was carrying my baby daughter at the window of our sixth-storey Toa Payoh flat when a lighted packet of big fire crackers, thrown by a criminal from a higher floor, exploded almost in our face. I certainly don't want that to happen to anyone, especially to a baby.

chakap chakap said...

Lee Tzu Pheng (Dr) (b. 13 May 1946, Singapore) is considered one of Singapore's most distinguished poets. A retired university lecturer, she is an award-winning poet who has published in anthologies and journals internationally.

All her three volumes of poetry, Prospect of a Drowning (1980), Against the Next Wave (1988) and The Brink of an Amen (1991), have won the National Book Development Council of Singapore (NBDCS) Award.

She is also a Cultural Medallion Award winner for Literature in 1985, and was the recipient of other awards...

JAMES KWOK said...

Hi Andy

Yea, that was dangerous.

Thank God the lighted pack of big red firecrackers
didn't hit me and/or my infant daughter.


chakap chakap2 said...

The permit system, a precursor to the Dangerous Fireworks Act, was established after Chinese New Year celebrations in 1970 caused six deaths, 68 injured victims and at least S$400,000 in damages.13 A maximum of S$5,000 and/or imprisonment of up to two years can be imposed for the possession or discharge of fireworks under the Dangerous Fireworks Act.14