There’s always a reason to celebrate here, thanks to the plethora of festivals year-round.
Orchard Road is always beautifully decorated and local churches hold pageants and carolling along the shopping district. Catholics head to church on Christmas Eve, while many families meet for a celebratory dinner. The Christmas Wonderland at Gardens by the Bay features a giant Spalliera (a lit structure), an European-style market, an iceskating rink and lighted sculptures – it’s the closest thing we’ll get to a winter wonderland in sunny Singapore.
NEXT: New Year’s Eve →
Of course, it’s not a celebration unique to Singapore. But you’ll only be able to catch spectacular fireworks displays for free thrice a year – other than Chinese New Year and National Day, it’s got to be on New Year’s Eve. Elsewhere, it’s all cheer, too – you’ll find countdown parties all over the city, be it in restaurants and bars or parks and community centres.
NEXT: Thaipusam →
Celebrated on the full-moon day of the Tamil “Thai” month (typically January or February), the festival sees devotees walk four kilometres between the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple to the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple. Carrying a kavadi, a colourful metal frame (some with hooks piercing their bodies), they are encouraged by family members chanting hymns and prayers.
NEXT: Chinese New Year →
One of the biggest festivals here is all about family and friends, with hongbao (red packets of money) and oranges exchanged during house visits. Unique to Singapore is the yu sheng or lo hei (tossed raw fish salad) that families eat during reunion dinners. Join in the festivities at the annual River Hongbao that’s part of the Chinese New Year celebrations. Entrance is free but you’ll need to pay for the rides and food.
NEXT: Chingay →
It’s just like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade but Singapore-style: a giant street parade filled with flag bearers, floats and lion dancers. Celebrated since the late 1800s, it has gone from a religious festival honouring Chinese deities to a more international one resembling Mardi Gras festivities. Watch the parade from the grandstands as the Formula 1 track area turns into parade ground. Check the Chingay website for tickets, which are usually sold in November.
NEXT: Vesak Day →
Buddhists around the world celebrate Vesak Day on this date annually, commemorating the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha. Over at the Thekchen Choling Tibetan Buddhist temple in the Jalan Besar area, a highlight is a giant four-story high thangka, a tapestry with an image of Buddha. Or, check out the most stunning temples in Singapore here.
NEXT: Hari Raya Puasa →
Hari Raya Puasa is a celebration that follows the month of Ramadan, which is a time of fasting and penitence for Muslims. Families buy new clothes, visit relatives and head to mosques for special prayers. Every year at Geylang Serai, there’s a giant bazaar with hundreds of stalls selling just about anything under the sun, from cars and clothes to traditional Malay food such as ketupat (rice cakes), and newer goodies like churros and raclette cheese.
NEXT: Dragon Boat Festival →
During this festival, watch teams race in elongated boats adorned with a painted dragon head as gongs and drums set the pace. Be sure to try bak chang, rice dumplings filled with meat and wrapped in bamboo leaves. What’s the link, anyway? Legend has it that to honour the death of a patriotic scholar who died in the sea, fishermen rushed out in long boats, beating drums to scare away the fish, while women throw rice dumplings in the water, all to deter the fish from feeding on the scholar’s body.
NEXT: Singapore International Festival of Arts →
Inaugurated in 1977, this annual arts festival celebrates the international and Singaporean artistic talents in performance, theatre, dance and music. The celebration of arts commences even pre-festival, beginning with The O.P.E.N, which pools ideas and public engagement for the myriad of shows and performances over the following months. P.S. They’re having open calls for next year’s edition, themed “Monuments”!
NEXT: Singapore Food Festival →
In this food capital, what better way to celebrate our city’s culture than with food? The Singapore Food Festival celebrates age-old Singaporean dishes as well as modern creations at heritage food trails and food carnivals. Mainstays of past editions include the Fifty Cents Fest, where all old-school local delights and street bites go for as little as (you guessed it) fifty cents. Restaurants also roll out not-to-be-missed special menus during this foodie festival.
NEXT: National Day →
Each year, the little Red Dot celebrates its independence with a giant bash. Its National Day Parade features military fanfare, mass performances and audience participation. Tickets for the parade are balloted months in advance – look out in The Straits Times for when balloting is open via online (only citizens and permanent residents can join) or convince a Singaporean friend with tickets to take you. Or you can find out where to watch the fireworks here.
NEXT: Singapore Night Festival →
The Bras Basah, Bugis precinct comes to life for two weekends filled with performances, street art and food during this festival. Though not a traditional festival in Singapore culture, it is the city’s largest outdoor performing arts festival. This year’s 10th anniversary edition kicks off around 7:30 p.m. each evening, and lasts till the a.m. hours.
NEXT: Hari Raya Haji →
There’s Hari Raya Puasa earlier in the year, and then there’s Hari Raya Haji, which happens 70 days after. Don’t confuse the two! “Hari Raya” directly translates to “Great Day” in English, while “Haji” means “pilgrim to Mecca” – a celebration of the end of the Hajj (pilgrimage). P.S. Here’s the difference!
NEXT: Hungry Ghost Festival →
If you notice food, pieces of paper or props in the shapes of houses or cars by the roadside, don’t touch or step on them. These offerings are burnt in metal bins to appease “wandering spirits.” Also known as the Seventh Month Festival (following the Lunar calendar, hence it doesn’t fall in July), you’ll find a getai, a loud, raucous show set up to please these spirits. The living are more than welcome to watch – just remember to leave the first row for any spirits in attendance.
NEXT: Thaipusam →
Marking the end of the autumn see mooncakes, pastries with a red bean or lotus paste filling, being sold in full-force. Try traditional and modern flavoured ones, typically with a lotus paste filling, or snowskin ones that come in unique flavours like lychee martini. Singaporeans celebrate this festival with paper or cellophane lanterns in animal or cartoon character shapes, loved by children and the young-at-heart.
NEXT: Deepavali →
Also known as the Festival of Lights, it is celebrated by Hindus to honour the slaying of Ravana, representing the triumph of good over evil. While female members of the family create rangoli or kolam, a coloured geometric or floral pattern made out of rice flour in doorways, kids play with sparklers and entire families go to the temple before visiting each other. Little India sees a massive light-up and also hosts the Deepavali Festival Village where you can buy various muruku (crackers), bangles, Indian outfits and get a henna tattoo.
NEXT: Halloween →
Unless you know where to look, you’d think Halloween isn’t a huge deal in Singapore, especially compared to back home. If you’re a hip partygoer (or, at least, for the night), hit up the clubs. With kids? They’ll love the chills and thrills at Universal Studios Singapore’s Halloween Horror Nights; or, Woodlands Woodgrove is the place to go trick-or-treating.
NEXT: Christmas →
By Andre Theng and Pinky Chng, The Finder (Issue 285), last updated December 2017
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