Singapore is abuzz with festivals and event all year round. Join in the fun at some of these festivities!
TOP 1 Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year marks the start of the new year in the Chinese calendar (different from the Western calendar), and is the most important event for the Chinese. Streets are decked in red with lanterns and various other decorations, as red symbolizes good fortune. Tonnes of preparation work is needed before the first day of the Chinese New Year, which includes spring cleaning, buying new clothes, the making or buying of Chinese New Year goodies such as mandarin oranges, bak kwa (barbecued meat) and pineapple tarts. Families also stock up on food to cook for reunion dinner which takes place on the eve of Chinese New Year. It is termed “reunion dinner” as family members from near and far would gather to have this meal together as a family. It would be a feast with an abundance of food that’s more than what the family can finish as the Chinese believe that this symbolizes abundance in the coming year.
During Chinese New Year, families will dress up in their new clothes and visit their relatives and friends. There will be an exchange of mandarin oranges and Chinese New Year goodies, and you can help yourselves to more Chinese New Year goodies such as cookies and bak kwa. Parents and relatives from the older generation who are married will give red packets to children, youths and those who are still single.
You can participate in the festivities in the cultural district of Chinatown both before and during Chinese New Year, where you will be greeted by street light-ups, performances such as lion dance and merchants selling Chinese New Year goodies. Colourful processions such as River Hongbao and Chingay Parade are also held during this period.
TOP 2 Hari Raya Aidilfitri
Hari Raya Aidilfitri is a season of celebration for the Muslims as they end a month-long fast during the holy month of Ramadan and start a new year. The cultural enclave of Geylang Serai is decked in celebration lights in the month leading up to Hari Raya. There will be Ramadan bazaars with many stalls that sell halal food, clothes, Hari Raya decorations and other household appliances, so make your way to one of these bazaars to soak in the fun! However, do remember to be sensitive to the Muslim community by not eating at the bazaar as they are fasting.
During Hari Raya, the younger generation will ask for forgiveness from their elders for any wrong committed in the past year. The elders would in turn pardon them and give them green packets. Members of the same family will typically wear the traditional Malay costumes of Baju Melayu and Baju Kurung in the same colour or hue as they go on visits to their relatives’ or friends’ place.
TOP 3 Deepavali
Deepavali is an annual celebration by the Hindus of the triumph of light over darkness. It is also known as “Diwali” or the “Festival of Lights” as the light of numerous oil lamps light up the streets of Little India and within the homes of the Hindu devotees. In the month leading up to Deepavali and during the celebrations, the streets of the Little India cultural district will be lighted up with bright colours, street lights and elephant and peacock installations as these are highly regarded in Hindu tradition. You are also likely to spot Rangoli, a form of art where brightly-coloured powders, rice or flower petals are used to create beautiful patterns on the ground. These artworks are created to usher deities into the home so that they can bless the household for the year ahead.
TOP 4 Singapore Night Festival
Singapore Night Festival is an event that many look forward to every August. The light installations transform the Bras Basah/Bugis heritage precinct into a surreal world by illuminating the facades of several landmarks such as CHIJMES (pictured above), Singapore Art Museum and the National Museum of Singapore. Besides the mindblowing installations, there are also international acts, dance troupes, street and music performances and food kiosks to satisfy your hunger.
TOP 5 National Day
National Day is no trivial matter in Singapore. Preparations for the National Day Parade (NDP) take place months before the actual day on 9 August, and the process involves thousands of people from different backgrounds coming together to make it a spectacular parade. Several NDP rehearsals will be carried out before the actual one, so don’t be surprised if you see fighter planes hovering overhead at the Marina Bay area on a regular weekend.
On the National Day, thousands of Singaporeans will throng the Marina Bay area for the celebrations, with restaurants and hotels in the area fully booked. Many will also go all out to secure the highly sought-after tickets for NDP so that they can join in the celebrations. They will be in colours of red and white – the colours on Singapore’s flag, and waving the Singapore flag.
Signature programmes during the NDP includes helicopters flying the Singapore flag over the Marina Bay, air shows by fighter jets, military parades, multicultural song-and-dance performances and breathtaking fireworks set against the Marina Bay skyline to top it all off.
TOP 6 Singapore Food Festival
It’s no secret that Singaporeans love food. From the multitude of restaurants and eateries everywhere you go, to the many supper spots and 24/7 eating establishments, it seemed like Singaporeans can eat any time anywhere. This great love for food has also culminated in the annual Singapore Food Festival, which serves as a platform for culinary masters to showcase their talents and for foodies to indulge in good food. Participants can look forward to an array of both traditional and modern dishes, workshops, chef collaborations and food tours to some of the neighbourhoods, so keep your peeled for the next Singapore Food Festival which typically takes place in July!
TOP 7 Dragon Boat Festival
The Dragon Boat Festival is characterized by dragon boat competitions and most commonly, the eating of rice dumplings (pictured above). The festival has its roots in the warring states era in China and tells the story of patriotism and politics. Legend has it that Qu Yuan, an upright minister and a once-trusted advisor to the emperor was banished and lost his position due to political intrigue. In deep sadness and despair, he committed suicide by throwing himself into the river. However, he was held in high regard by the local folks. Fishermen beat their oars against the water to attempt to stop fishes from eating his body, while some others throw cooked rice wrapped in leaves into the river in hopes that the fishes would eat the rice instead of the body. These practices eventually became a tradition and are precursors to the present-day dragon boat competitions and eating of rice dumplings.
TOP 8 Mid-Autumn Festival
Mid-Autumn Festival marks the end of the autumn harvest and is a time of joyful celebration. The festival falls on the 15th of August in the Chinese calendar (typically September in the Western calendar), and is when the moon is biggest and shines the brightest in the year. A popular item during the Mid-Autumn festival is mooncake. This is evident from the various bakeries and restaurants selling all sorts of traditional and modern mooncakes. You can even find ice cream mooncakes and durian mooncakes. Besides feasting on mooncakes, you can also participate in moon-viewing parties, lantern making and walking around the neighbourhood with a lighted lantern.
TOP 9 Singapore Grand Prix
The Singapore Grand Prix is a key event in the Singapore calendar. It is typically held in September, with the key events being the night race which is first in the world, and various concerts by pop stars. There are also pop-up events, festivities and after-parties. The 2019 Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix has seen a whopping 268,000 spectators at the Marina Bay Circuit over the three days of races. Join in and feel the adrenaline rush!
TOP 10 Hungry Ghost Festival
Unlike the other festivals in the list, the hungry ghost festival is not a time of celebration but a time to pay respects to spirits of the netherworld. Taking place in the 7th month in the Chinese calendar (typically August – September in the Western calendar), it is mainly observed by the Chinese. If you happen to visit Singapore during this time, you will see several rituals and practices done by the living to appease the dead. This includes the burning of hell money and other necessities to the deceased, getai performances to entertain the spirits and food and drinks being left out at the roadsides for the spirits to ‘feast’ on them. It is important not to sit at the first row of getai performances as it is reserved for the spirits, and to be careful not to step on the food and drinks left for the spirits as it might incur their wrath.
Photo credits: TODAYonline, The Honeycombers, Expedia Singapore Travel Blog, Time Out, Dollars And Sense, Coconuts, Flickr/Choo Yut Shing, HoneyKids Asia, Singapore Grand Prix, The Straits Times/Mark Cheong
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