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Singapore Festivals & Celebrations

Diverse Celebrations, Both Religious and Secular

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Singapore is a relatively young country, sewn together from radically different races and cultures. No wonder their holidays are also quite diverse! Both religious holidays and secular celebrations take place in Singapore, and guests are encouraged to take part in any of them, no matter what your particular religious or cultural allegiance!

January 23-24, 2012: Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is Singapore's holiday highlight. Chinese families get together for family reunions, giving "Hong Bao" (envelopes of cash) to unmarried family members, and catching up.

Singapore's streets light up with lanterns and fireworks, and Chinatown becomes one big shopping bazaar.

Two public events take place during Chinese New Year - the Chingay Parade, Singapore's unique street party and parade along Orchard Road; and the River Hong Bao, a retail and cultural extravaganza that takes place in Esplanade Park.

February 7, 2012: Thaipusam

Singapore's Tamil population honors the Hindu god Subramaniam on Thaipusam. Devotees undertake spectacular sacrifices to win favor with Subramaniam, such as bearing the kavadi: a portable altar attached to the devotee by 108 metal skewers stuck through the skin!

These devotees can be seen in the traditional chariot procession that begins at the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple at Serangoon Road, proceeding to the Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple at Keong Siak Road.

May 5, 2012: Vesak Day

Singapore's Buddhists celebrate Vesak Day to commemorate the Buddha's birth, enlightenment and Nirvana. Temples are festooned with flags and lights, and captive animals are released. Mass candlelight processions occur during this holiday, attended by devotees chanting sutras and paying homage to the Buddha.

Buddhists make merit on this day by giving to the poor through charitable organizations, often visiting prisons and hospitals to share their bounty with residents.

May 18, 2012: Singapore Arts Festival

Singapore celebrates the arts (both ancient and modern) through the Singapore Arts Festival, bringing together the world's best exponents of drama, dance, and music. The staid avenues come alive with street performers, and the many arts venues around Singapore play host to workshops and lectures on art.

July: Singapore Food Festival

Singapore is food-mad all year round - and this comes to a head on the Singapore Food Festival, an annual event held all July. Food rules the island throughout the festival - from culinary workshops to themed food events to cooking competitions to lectures by notable chefs, visitors can enjoy flavors from all over the world in Singapore. Restaurants and stores offer great deals on food during this time of the year, so eat up!

August 31, 2012: Festival Of The Hungry Ghosts

Hungry Ghost Festival appeases the ghosts who (Taoists believe) roam the earth for a month every year. These ghosts are easily appeased with traditional Chinese operas and extravagant feasts, all held outdoors in public view.

The festival has become a full-fledged celebration of traditional Chinese culture, with performances of Chinese entertainments everywhere, mixed with the ever-present scent of joss sticks burning in front of small altars. Families will burn paper crafts in the shape of modern items (cars, money, DVDs) for their ancestors' use.

August 19, 2012: Hari Raya Puasa

Hari Raya Puasa marks the end of the fasting season of Ramadan, and is perhaps the most avidly celebrated Muslim holiday in Singapore. Street bazaars serve a wide variety of Malay food on the eve of Hari Raya Puasa, a delicious breaking of the fast for many hungry Singaporeans.

In the morning, Muslims gather at the mosque to pray, then hold reunions with families in brand new clothes.

The celebration is not a purely Muslim event - it's become more popular to invite non-Muslim friends into one's household to help celebrate the day.

September 30, 2012: Mid-Autumn Festival

The Mid-Autumn Festival figures largely in Chinese mythology, but manifests mostly in round "mooncakes", or lotus-seed cakes with duck egg centers. These come in many shapes, colors, and sizes, and are hot currency throughout the Festival. Lantern festivals are also held for the festival's duration, adding a hearty glow to Singapore's streets.

September 23-25: Singapore Grand Prix

Singapore takes Grand Prix to the streets! The country's 3.14-mile Formula One route is centered around Marina Bay, careens around some of Singapore's best-known tourist spots (see Must-See Tourist Destinations Around the Singapore Formula One Route for details), and takes place at night (the first time this was permitted to occur).

November 13, 2012: Deepavali

Singapore's Hindu community celebrates Deepavali to commemorate the victory of Lord Krishna over evil. Deepavali is the start of the Indian New Year, and is primarily celebrated in Little India.

Serangoon Road comes alive with bazaars and cultural performances throughout October. Little India's Campbell Lane is organized into a street bazaar selling Indian sundries, from spices to saris. And the Deepavali Street Parade transforms Little India into the island's hottest party scene.

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