United in celebration – the different festivals of Singapore

December 18, 2016

Singapore’s vibrant, multicultural soul truly comes alive during festival time. Home to an eclectic mix of cultures and traditions, the island-nation celebrates its many identities with pomp and splendour. Whether it is the colour and non-stop energy of Chinese New Year, the sparkling lights of Deepavali, or the joyous calm of Hari Raya Puasa, you will find everyone united in celebration. 

We take an up-close, and personal look at the spirit of some festivals and what it represents to a millennial Singapore. 

Celebrating the Chinese culture

The Chinese New Year is a testament to the rich cultural traditions of the largest ethnic group in Singapore. The festival captures the verve and enthusiasm of the new-age mixed with the calm wisdom of the ancestors. 

Festivities for the New Year begin in earnest three full weeks before the auspicious day. The island-nation decks itself in red, which signifies good fortune: You will find rows of gorgeous red lanterns stretching over streets, expertly-choreographed lion dances, fun-filled processions, and the bright hue of mandarin oranges in every nook and corner. 

Speaking of oranges, the New Year celebrations would be incomplete without its lip-smacking cuisine. You will experience an exciting variety of tastes and seductive smells. There are sweet treats that melt in your mouth like the pineapple tarts. Then there are savoury snacks like the spicy shrimp rolls that will fire up your taste buds. Top it off with the savoury & sweet pork jerky, fondly called as “Bak Kwa”. 

Malay joy

The holy Islamic month of Ramadan culminates in a celebration of joy and brotherhood with Hari Raya Puasa. After a month of worship, fasting and performing charitable deeds, the Muslims come together and renew their ties with family and friends. Forgiveness is a central theme of this festival as the men and women apologize to their elders for any wrong behaviour they have committed in the year. 

Hari Raya Puasa is a celebration of joy, forgiveness, and food. In fact, the feast almost takes centre stage once the prayers are offered. You can indulge your taste buds with delicious beef rendang, smooth sayur lodeh (vegetables cooked in coconut milk), and tongue tingling sambal (chilli paste). 

Indian identity

Deepavali celebrates the victory of light over darkness and good over evil. The diverse facets of Indian identity come together for this auspicious festival. You will see why it is called the Festival of Lights as Singapore is decorated with shining, twinkling light features along the streets of Little India (area around Serangoon Road). The island-nation rivals a star-filled night sky during this Deepavali.

The Hindu festival is a treat for your senses. Your eyes will be dazzled by the various hues of flowers, exquisite saris, and the jewellery on display in Little India. The rich scent of floral garlands mixed with freshly ground aromatic spices will waft past you, seducing you. 

Joyous Christmas

The metropolitan, cross-cultural spirit of Singapore is celebrated through its many festivals. A testimony to the harmony between the various cultures is the carnival atmosphere one finds during Christmas, where people of all faiths and traditions come together and unite in celebration. The streets of Singapore will be abounding in spectacular Christmas decorations and merry gift shopping to usher in this much awaited year-end holiday. Christmas feasts, carolling and even faux snow are all part of this joyous celebration.