JOHOR BARU: Johor’s annual Chingay procession has been called off this year in view of the high number of Covid-19 infections.
Johor Baru Tiong-Hua Association president Ho Sow Tong said the decision to cancel the iconic procession, which would have been its 151th time this year, came after extended discussions with the Johor Ancient Temple and the five dialect clan associations involved in the event.
“Although it was a tough decision to make, it was also necessary as we decided to play it safe for the sake of the public’s health.
“However, in order to keep the ancient tradition alive, the organising committee will still carry out simple ceremonies and rituals behind closed doors, ” he said at a virtual press conference here yesterday.
He explained that the highlight of the Chingay Festival, celebrated on the 18th to 22nd day of the Lunar New Year, is the 8km procession where thousands of devotees parade through the streets of Johor Baru’s city centre with the five clan deities – Teochew, Hokkien, Hakka, Cantonese and Hainan – alongside colourful floats and performances.
The iconic event has drawn crowds of up to 400,000 people previously and has been recognised by the Malaysia National Cultural Heritage since 2012.
Ho added that last year’s Chingay procession, which fell on Feb 14, was scaled down massively due to the pandemic, with only six lorries carrying each of the five clan deities and the temple’s main joss stick urn, but the public turnout was still quite large.
“In Johor, there is a common saying among the local Chinese community that the Chingay procession marks the end of the Chinese New Year celebration.
“If we were to emulate last year’s model, we would have a tough time controlling the crowd and we do not want to put the public at risk.
“We urge devotees and the public to be patient and pray for the best so that we can come back bigger and stronger next year once the situation improves, ” Ho said.
Johor Ancient Temple chairman Lee Poo Sin said the temple in Jalan Trus would be closed from March 2-5 for the Chingay rituals.
“The Chingay procession was supposed to take place on March 4 this Year of the Ox, which is equivalent to the 21st day of the Lunar New Year.
“We advise devotees not to turn up at the temple as the events will be held behind closed doors to prevent traffic congestion and the possibility of us flouting the SOP due to large crowds, ” he said.
He added that the organisers would meet with the police and other authorities to obtain a set of guidelines for the internal rituals.
Lee said the public could visit the temple’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Johor.Ancient.Temple for live broadcasts and past Chingay activities.