Singapore Country Guide

Holidays & Festivals


Singapore is a secular city state but due to its multicultural population, celebrates Chinese, Muslim, Indian, and Christian holidays and festivals. There are also the secular holidays and festivals. The year kicks off with a bang on New Year, celebrated in Singapore just as in the West with a fireworks show and parties at every nightspot in town.

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A Hindu festival celebrated in January-February. One can witness this celebration as male devotees carry kavadi, an elaborate structure piercing through various parts of the body. The devotees then join a procession from the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Little India to the Sri Thandayuthapani Temple in Tank Road. Female devotees usually join the procession carrying pots of milk instead.

Chinese New Year
Due to the influence of the Chinese majority, the largest event by far is Chinese New Year (Lunar New Year), held in January or February. While this might seem to be an ideal time to visit, many smaller shops and eateries close for 2-3 days during the period, though supermarkets, department stores and high end restaurants remain open. The whole festival stretches out for no less than 42 days, but the frenzied buildup to the peak occurs just before the night of the new moon. Red tinsels, mandarin oranges,
street decorations and crowds of shoppers queuing in Chinatown add spice to the festive mood. The two following days are spent with family and most of the island comes to a standstill, and then life returns to normal. Ten days later, there is the final burst of Chingay, a colourful parade down Orchard Road.

Chinese New Year decorations by Jpatokal

Dragon Boat Festival
On the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese calendar, the Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated to commemorate a Chinese folk hero. As part of the celebration, rice dumplings wrapped in pandan leaves instead of the traditional bamboo leaves are usually eaten. Dragon boat races are often held at the Singapore River on this day. 

Vesak Day
The Buddhist Vesak Day in May or June celebrates the birthday of the Buddha Sakyamuni, plus the Christian holidays of Christmas Day, for which Orchard road is extensively decorated, and Good Friday round out the list of holidays.

Hungry Ghost Festival
The seventh month of the Chinese lunar calendar (usually August) starts off with a puff of smoke, as "hell money" is burned and food offerings are made to please the spirits of ancestors who are said to return to earth at this time. The climax of the festival is when the living get together to stuff themselves and watch plays and Chinese opera performances.

Mid-Autumn Festival
Following soon afterwards, there is the Mid-Autumn Festival held on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month (September of October). Elaborate lantern decorations are lit (particularly in Jurong's Chinese Garden) and moon cakes filled with red bean paste, nuts and more are consumed merrily.

About one week before Deepavali is Thimithi, the fire-walking festival where one can see male devotees walking on burning coals at the Sri Mariamman Temple in Chinatown.

Deepavali (Diwali)
This is the Hindu festival of light, celebrated around October or November. The streets of Little India are brightly decorated and lighted at night
during the few weeks leading to Deepavali. Little India becomes very lively during these few weeks as Hindu shoppers crowd the markets and shops to purchase Indian decorations, clothes and other goodies to celebrate to festivity.

Little India, Singapore

Deepavali in Little India

During the Muslim month of Ramadan and the celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr or Hari Raya Puasa (immediately after Ramadan) is a major occasion in Malay (who are mainly Muslims) parts of town. A major area for the celebration is Geylang Serai, which is lighted up with extensive decorations. 

Another festival celebrated by the Muslim Malays is Eid-ul-Adha and known locally as Hari Raya Haji. The festival occurs about 2 months after
Eid-ul-Fitr, which is the period when Muslims make the trip to Mecca (in Saudi Arabia) to perform the Haj. In local mosques, lambs contributed by the faithful are sacrificed and their meat is used to feed the poor.

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