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Jul 15, 2024

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Festivals in Singapore

Festivals in Singapore: A Diverse Tapestry of Cultural Celebrations

Singapore is known as a cultural melting pot, where diverse ethnicities come together in perfect harmony. From the dazzling celebrations of Chinese New Year to the vibrant festivities of Deepavali, each festival offers expats a delightful glimpse into the rich tapestry of cultures and traditions. Get ready to immerse yourself in the festive atmosphere all year round!

Chinese New Year

Introduction

Undoubtedly, the Lunar New Year is the most jubilant celebration in Singapore. Also known as the ‘Spring Festival’, this joyous occasion is all about bidding farewell to the old and welcoming in the new year with a fresh dose of luck. Preparation for this grand event begins weeks in advance, as families across the island embark on a cleaning spree, adorn their homes with vibrant red decorations, and get all set for the traditional rituals ahead.

The celebration continues for 15 days starting from the eve of the Lunar New Year. During this time, the city comes alive with a sea of red and other bright colors adorning the streets as people exchange heartfelt New Year wishes. A cherished tradition within the Chinese community involves elders gifting hong bao, or red envelopes filled with money, to younger family members as tokens of good luck and blessings for the year ahead.

Where to go

The liveliest area during this time is Chinatown, where the air is filled with the rhythmic beat of lion and dragon dances. The entire neighborhood is decked in dazzling decorations and illuminated by rows upon rows of traditional Chinese lanterns. 
Read more: Guide to Celebrating Chinese New Year in Singapore

Hari Raya Puasa

Introduction

Hari Raya Puasa is celebrated the day after the end of Ramadan, a holy month of fasting, prayer, and reflection for Muslims. This festival, stands as one of the most revered festivals among Muslims in Singapore, celebrated with fervor and joy. It is a time when the sparkle of colorful lights illuminates the city, making it one of the most prominent festivals in Singapore. 

Hari Raya Puasa is a time of jubilation, when people come together to celebrate the blessings of positivity and goodness in their lives, fostering a sense of unity and harmony within the community. During this time, Muslims make early morning visits to mosques for prayers. From the 20th day of Ramadan until Hari Raya Puasa, homes are adorned with radiant lights, symbolizing the spirit of the occasion.

Where to go

Experience the vibrant festivities of Hari Raya Puasa in Singapore by exploring its cultural hubs:

  • Discover the lively bazaars of Geylang Serai, brimming with traditional Malay attire, delectable festive delicacies, and ornate decorations.
  • In Kampong Glam, delve into a cultural extravaganza centered around the majestic Sultan Mosque and bustling local shops, offering a glimpse into the rich heritage of the Malay community.

Hari Raya Haji 

Introduction

Hari Raya Haji is celebrated to commemorate the pilgrimage of Muslims known as Hajj, which holds significant cultural and religious importance in Singapore. Festivities mirror those of Hari Raya Puasa, with Muslims dressing up to attend mosques for prayers and sermons. However, a distinctive aspect of Hari Raya Haji is the ritualistic sacrifice of cows, sheep, lambs, and goats in a ceremony known as ‘Korban’. After the sacrificial animal is cleaned and cooked, Muslims gather to share lavish meals and visit each other’s homes. 

Where to go

To experience the essence of Hari Raya Haji, a visit to Sultan Mosque is a must. This iconic landmark, located in Kampong Glam, is one of the city’s most renowned mosques and holds special significance during this festival. You can witness the ‘Korban’ ceremony, a central ritual of Hari Raya Haji, where sacrificial animals are offered as a symbol of devotion. Another famous place to visit is Sultan Mosque, which serves as a hub of community activity during this time, with Muslims gathering to share meals and engage in festive camaraderie.

Deepavali 

Introduction

Deepavali, also known as Diwali, is a celebration of the triumph of good over evil, making it one of Singapore’s most culturally significant festivals. People illuminate their homes, exchange gifts and sweets, and gather for sumptuous dinner parties featuring authentic Indian cuisine. Little India comes alive with vibrant decorations of strings, floral garlands, and lights, creating a captivating atmosphere of festivity and joy.

Where to go

To fully immerse yourself in the Deepavali festivities, head to Little India in Singapore. Here, you’ll witness the streets adorned with colorful decorations and experience the vibrant energy of the celebrations. Explore the bustling markets to find traditional Indian clothing, decorative items, and delicious sweets. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit local temples, where devotees gather to offer prayers and seek blessings. And while firecrackers are banned in Singapore, families come together to light sparklers, adding to the enchanting ambiance of Deepavali in the Lion City.

Thaipusam

Introduction

During the Thaipusam festival in Singapore, thousands of Hindu devotees come together to express gratitude to Lord Murugan for his blessings and benevolence. The festival takes its name from the Tamil month of Thai and the Pusam star, which aligns with the full moon day. Preparation for this sacred occasion commences a month prior, with devotees adhering strictly to a vegetarian diet as part of their spiritual purification.

Central to the Thaipusam festivities is a grand procession, where devotees carry ornate Kavadi while undergoing ritualistic body piercings – a symbolic act of sacrifice to honor Lord Murugan. In Singapore, the procession traverses from the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple to the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple, drawing awe and reverence from onlookers.

The Kavadi itself is a sight to behold, intricately adorned with vibrant colors and fragrant flowers, symbolizing devotion and reverence. The atmosphere is further enriched by the resonant beats of traditional drums and rhythmic foot-tapping, creating a mesmerizing ambiance that captivates all who participate in or witness this sacred celebration in Singapore.

Where to go

For expats in Singapore looking to experience the vibrant energy and rich cultural traditions of Thaipusam, the best place to visit is the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple in the heart of Little India. Here, you’ll witness the fervent devotion of thousands of Hindu devotees as they embark on the colorful procession from the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple to Sri Thendayuthapani Temple, carrying ornate Kavadi and participating in ritualistic ceremonies.

Good Friday

Introduction

Good Friday, falling on the Friday before Easter, is a significant day in the Christian calendar. Recognized as a public holiday in Singapore, Good Friday is also known by different names worldwide, such as “Great Friday” or “Holy Friday.” 

Where to go

For those observing this religious occasion in Singapore, churches across the island hold special prayer services to commemorate the solemn event. One notable location to experience the spiritual significance of Good Friday is St. Joseph’s Catholic Church on Victoria Street. 

Chinese New Year in Singapore

Vesak Day

Introduction

With approximately 30% of the population in Singapore identifying as Buddhist (Statista, 2020), Vesak Day stands as one of Singapore’s most significant and holiest festivals. It commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and death of Gautama Buddha. Vesak Day falls on the full moon day (the 15th) of the fourth month of the Lunar Calendar.

The observance of Vesak Day begins early in the morning, as devout Buddhists gather at temples for ceremonies. These temples are adorned with colorful Buddhist flags, lights, and shrines embellished with flowers, fruits, and other offerings. Devotees unfurl vibrant prayer flags, light candles and incense sticks, and offer hymns to honor Lord Buddha. Throughout the day, only vegetarian meals are consumed. Some individuals symbolically release caged birds and animals, signifying liberation, while others spend hours chanting mantras.

Where to go

If you’re eager to immerse yourself in this year’s festivities, consider exploring these Buddhist temples:

  • The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum stands as a celebrated landmark in Singapore, nestled in the heart of Chinatown. This majestic temple is dedicated to preserving a sacred relic believed to be a tooth of Gautama Buddha. Serving as both a place of worship and a museum, it beckons visitors from around the globe, offering a captivating insight into Buddhist culture, art, and history.
  • Lian Shan Shuang Lin Temple, located in Toa Payoh, Singapore, is one of the oldest Buddhist temples on the island. Erected in the 19th century, this temple showcases exquisite traditional Chinese architecture and embodies rich cultural heritage. Its name, translating to “Twin Grove of the Lotus Mountain Temple,” evokes its tranquil surroundings and serene atmosphere. 

National Day

Introduction

Singapore National Day, celebrated on the 9th of August, symbolizes the country’s remarkable progress, resilience, and unity. This significant occasion serves as a moment for reflection and jubilation, acknowledging Singapore’s achievements throughout its history. Across the island, the vibrant colors of red and white adorn buildings, streets, and flags, reflecting the nation’s spirit and pride. The day is marked by impressive parades that demonstrate the discipline and camaraderie of the armed forces, which showcase the strength and unity of Singapore’s defense.

Where to go

For an unforgettable experience during Singapore National Day, here are some key locations to consider:

  • The Padang is the main venue for the National Day Parade (NDP) in both 2024 and 2025. The historic site will host the grand parade, complete with a spectacular display of military performances and a magnificent fireworks finale. 
  • For 2025, the Marina Bay area will serve as a vibrant satellite site with live festivities. Visitors can enjoy various activities, including live screenings of the parade, food stalls, and family-friendly activities. The waterfront promenade offers a picturesque view of the city skyline, making it an excellent spot for watching the fireworks display.

Mid-Autumn Festival

Introduction

The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Lantern Festival, holds significant cultural importance across Asia. In Singapore, it marks the conclusion of the autumn harvest and commemorates the ascension of the Moon goddess Chang E to the moon. During this enchanting festival, the city comes alive with the glow of a thousand lanterns, illuminated by children and families alike as they gather to admire the luminous beauty of the moon after dusk. 

Where to go

A stroll through Chinatown reveals a mesmerizing display of intricate craftsmanship and artistry, with lanterns adorning every corner, casting a magical ambiance upon the streets. The vibrant colors and whimsical shapes of these lanterns captivate the senses, inviting visitors to immerse themselves in the joyous spirit of the Mid-Autumn Festival celebration.

Christmas

Introduction

Singapore embraces the Christmas season with unparalleled enthusiasm, transforming its streets into a dazzling spectacle of festive cheer. Adorned with twinkling lights, elaborate decorations, and tantalizing aromas wafting from food stalls, the city becomes a wonderland of delights. As the most enchanting time of the year approaches, the holiday spirit descends upon Singapore weeks in advance, filling the air with anticipation and excitement. 

Where to go

Orchard Road and Marina Bay undergo stunning metamorphoses during this period, with vibrant street lighting, majestic celebratory arches, and captivating water features adorning their thoroughfares. Immersive themed sets provide picturesque backdrops for holiday snapshots, drawing locals and tourists alike into the enchanting ambiance of Christmas in Singapore. 

2024 Singapore Festive Calendar

DateEvent
25 JanThaipusam
10-12 FebChinese New Year
29 MarGood Friday
10 AprHari Raya Puasa
22 MayVesak Day
17 JunHari Raya Haji
9 AugNational Day
17 SepMid-Autumn Festival
31 OctDiwali/Deepavali
24-25 DecChristmas
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