Cultural Festivals in Singapore
Multiculturalism is one of the key building blocks of Singapore’s national identity, and Singaporeans often join in the festivities of ethnic and religious groups other than their own. In turn, these festivals are a huge draw for many tourists to Singapore. Want to know the significance of 4 major cultural festivals in Singapore and how you can participate in them? Read on!
(Note: these festivals occur on different dates each year, according to the respective ethnic and religious calendars. Be sure to do a quick search of the dates if you wish for your trip to coincide with them.)
Chinese New Year
As its name suggests, this festival is celebrated at the start of every year in the Chinese lunar calendar, and Chinese families view this as a time to gather together in their parents’ homes no matter where in the world they may usually reside. The eve of Chinese New Year is thus celebrated over a reunion dinner with extended family, while visitations to friends’ and relatives’ homes take place over the next 15 days. About a month leading up to Chinese New Year, you’ll be able to soak in the festivities at bazaars selling Chinese New Year decorations and goodies in Chinatown and in the heartlands. You can also catch the Chingay (‘costume’) parade, a national event that began as a parade to commemorate Chinese New Year but has since evolved to become a multicultural extravaganza that features performers from other ethnicities as well. Chingay also prides itself in being the largest street performance and float parade in Asia.
Hari Raya Puasa
Hari Raya Puasa is an extremely important festival for Muslims because it marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan that all followers of the faith must observe. Families dress up in new sets of traditional costumes and go visiting relatives and friends, for a day of feasting and seeking of forgiveness. Before this day arrives, during the month of Ramadan, a night market is set up along Geylang Serai and begins its daily operations when Muslims break their fast for the day. While the night market used to sell mainly traditional Malay goodies (Malays form the majority of Muslims in Singapore), it has in recent years seen an increasing number of hipster food stalls selling the likes of rainbow burgers that have attracted non-Muslim Singaporeans and tourists to the bazaar as well.
Also known as Diwali elsewhere in the world, this Hindu festival of lights is symbolic of light over the dark, good over evil. Although Hindu in origin, Deepavali is also celebrated by Indians of other religions in Singapore, and the festivities are most visible in the Little India district. The streets of Little India are lit with vibrant coloured lights a few weeks before the actual festival, where devotees take part in processions involving piercing of their skin as a ritual of catharsis. The lights at Little India attract thousands of tourists every year, and is said to be such an annual spectacle rivalled only by the lights along Orchard Road during Christmas.
Christmas marks the last major festival each year before ushering in the New Year, and is celebrated by Christians and non-Christians alike. Indeed, Orchard Road’s display of lights and its ‘best-dressed mall’ Christmas decoration competition traditionally made Orchard Road the place to be for those who simply adore Christmas lights. Elsewhere, you can find lighted trees, dressed storefronts and even ‘snow’. Gardens by the Bay is a wondrous place to visit during this season for its immersive experience. Universal Studios Singapore has also brought out unique programmes for the occasion. In 2016, it created a wonderful light bulb display with over 800,000 bulbs, earning it a Guinness World Record.