The Festivals of Singapore

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First published 23rd October, 2009

Many travellers on the Southeast Asia circuit skip Singapore, writing it off as just another big, bland city. While it's undeniably true that Singapore isn't in-your-face like Bangkok or rustically charming like Vientiane, that doesn't mean this capital can't be an interesting place too. Where Singapore shines is its multiculturalism -- there are three very unique cultures each battling to keep their traditions alive in a city that embraces modernism. Visit Singapore for one of these upcoming festivals then see if you think it's still a dull place.


Deepavali (Diwali)

Until the end of October, 2009
It came early this year, but the Indian Festival of Lights usually falls in November. The most important holiday for Hindus, Deepavali means a whole month of celebration in Singapore's vibrant Little India district. Join the throngs of people at the Festival Bazaar on Campbell Lane shopping for bejewelled saris, fragrant flower garlands, or special sweets and getting adorned with henna (from S$5 and lasting about 7 days) in anticipation of the big day. All month long Little India pulses with music and cultural performances, but the most beautiful part of the festival is the dazzling decorations along Seragoon Road. The festival organizers are clearly giving Christmas on Orchard a run for its money, and the Deepavali Light Up (19:00 and onwards) gets more spectacular every year.

Festivals in Sinagpore



Deepavali market

Hari Raya Haji

November 27, 2009
Celebrated by Singapore's Muslim community, this day marks the conclusion of the Haj pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca. It's a day of sacrifice (animals are sacrificed and the meat donated to the poor), but also one of celebration. After prayers at the mosque, people gather for a special meal with family and friends. Visit Kampong Glam or Geylang Serai, the heart of Singapore's Malay community, for holiday markets and special meals.

Peranakan Festival

November 27 - December 6
A relative newcomer to Singapore's busy festival line-up, this 10-day festival celebrates all things Peranakan -- the uniquely local fusion of Malay and Chinese cultures. The festival line-up includes art galleries, plays, antique bazaars, heritage walks, and special museum tours, but one of the highlights is sure to be the food extravaganza. For more information, see http://www.peranakan.org.sg/.

Christmas

December 25, 2009
Christmas is a big deal in Singapore. But, just like in the West, the traces of a religious context are overshadowed by consumerism. A festival of presents and food? That's one that Singapore can get behind! Despite the tropical climes you'll see plenty of (plastic) snowmen, Christmas trees, and decorations. Orchard Road is lit up end to end (malls vie for the title of "best decorated"), shopping hours are extended, and bakeries that usually deal in durian puffs sell gingerbread men. From the 19th - 24th this year there will be carollers and floats on Orchard Road, wrapping up with the Grand Christmas Concert on the 25th. To make the tourists and expats feel at home, many hotels organise champagne lunches and Christmas dinners with turkey and all the fixings -- they're not cheap though.

Chinese New Year

February 14 - 16, 2010
Gong xi fa chai -- 2010 is the Year of the Tiger! The Lunar New Year is the biggest celebration of the year and one of the only times that you'll see local store close for a holiday. In the weeks leading up to the event, the whole city gets in a festive mood and participates in the rites of the New Year: wearing red clothes, exchanging hong bao (envelopes of money), and ridding all buildings of bad spirits with a noisy dragon dance performance. Chinatown is lit up with colourful lanterns and the centre of the festivities with night markets, fireworks, Chinese opera, acrobats, dancers, and lots and lots of food. The holiday concludes the following week with the Chingay Street Parade through the central business district.

Thaipusam

February 2010 (exact date TBA)
Think of it like Hindu Thanksgiving, except people carve themselves instead of a turkey. After entering a meditative trance, devotees of Lord Subramaniam pierce their faces with metal skewers and hook kavadis, decorated metal cages, to their bodies. Carrying the kavadis, the devotees form a procession from Sri Sriniasa Temple on Serangoon Rd. to Chettiar Temple on Tank Rd., followed by their supporters who make offerings of fruit and milk. This dramatic festival attracts as many curious onlookers as participants and is the Singaporean version of the activities held at the Batu Caves in Malaysia.


About the author:
Tanya Procyshyn is a Singapore-based freelance writer and photographer. With a passion for unusual destinations, she has camped alongside Komodo dragons and shook hands with soldiers in North Korea. She blogs at www.idreamofdurian.com.


Read 3 comment(s)

  • thanku .. thats nice i didn't know anything about singapore festival

    Posted by Hadi on 24th October, 2009

  • Singapore is a lovely city/state. I agree with writer about the mulit-culturism being an attraction. Very friendly people who get on with it despite their differences. And English is the common language so it makes things easy.

    The colonial touch is also interesting, with some great architecture along with the modern.

    Good time to travel is end September for the Formula 1 night grandprix race.

    Multiculturism also brings great food from the different cultures. Not expensive if you eat in clean food markets.

    Visit the Botanic gardens (free) and orchid garden (S$5 per person I think).

    All in Singapore is a great place. Clean and safe.

    Posted by KCsaffas on 27th October, 2009

  • Yup - S$5 for adults (S$1 for students or seniors) to the Orchid Garden & Cool House (where the carnivorous plants are).

    The Singapore Botanic Garden is covered under the Orchard Road area Attractions section.

    http://www.travelfish.org/sights/singapore/central_region/central_area/orchard

    Posted by idreamofdurian on 28th October, 2009

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