Being the melting pot of cultures, it’s no surprise that Singapore plays host to a number of socio-cultural festivals that are fun, exciting and downright eye-opening. As a small country comprised of Chinese, Malays and Indians, the ethnic groups in Singapore have played a large role in shaping the country’s multicultural lifestyle. This is commonly seen in most of its festivals, which are nothing short of vibrant and distinct in their own ways. The unique blend of ethnic and cultural facets in Singapore marks the country’s calendar with holidays and celebrations all year around. Festivals can range from socio-cultural festivities, religious celebrations and sports events. In recent years, Singapore has organised cultural festivals that extend beyond the ethnic and religious festivals that take place in the country. The emergence of these types of celebrations and festivals has improved Singapore’s position as a cultural hotspot. Let’s delve into some of these festivals that take place in Singapore.
Annual Holidays in Singapore
New Year’s Day
Similar to other countries, New Year’s Day is counted as an annual public holiday. During New Year’s Eve, there are several venues that host and organise parties throughout the island. The most popular countdowns in Singapore are Siloso Beach Party at Sentosa and the Marina Bay Singapore Countdown. Other popular spots include Clarke Quay, Orchard Road, and Boat Quay.
Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year is one of the longest and most anticipated celebrations in Singapore. It usually commences on the first day of the first lunar month of the Chinese calendar, this typically falls between the last week of January and early February. Places like Chinatown are usually brightly lit with oriental lanterns embellishing the streets and stunning decorations. During this period, you might be able to watch lion and dragon dances that are held mostly at Chinatown and some neighbourhood areas too!
Vesak Day is observed by the Buddhist community in Singapore. It usually falls in the month of May and honours the three phases Buddha went through in his lifetime: birth, enlightenment and the final nirvana. During Vesak day, Buddhist temples are typically adorned with Buddhist lights and flags. Additionally, shrines are adorned with fruits, flowers and other offerings.
Known as the festival of lights, Deepavali is an important festival that is observed by devout Hindus in Singapore. Typically falling in the month of October or November, the celebrations commence weeks ahead. In fact, Little India goes into full swing by sporting colourful lights and traditional Indian decorations. Roadside stalls and bazaars are set up during this time and they sell all kinds of trinkets, decorative items such as terracotta lamps, flowers and other knick-knacks.
Hari Raya Puasa
As a major festival for the Malay community in Singapore, Hari Raya Puasa is a major festival that falls in the month of September or October. Essentially, Hari Raya Puasa marks the end of Ramadan, which is the Islamic holy month of fasting. Places like Geylang Serai are decorated and brightly lit. Being the heart of the Malay/Muslim community, it’s no surprise that this place is rife with vibrant bazaars and numerous food stalls that offer all kinds of foods that both sweet and savoury. There are also cultural performances that take place during this time.
Much like other Western and western influenced countries, Christmas is a popular holiday in Singapore. Orchard Road and Marina Bay are noted for the Christmas Light-Up. Street lighting, celebratory arches, Christmas-themed sets and other decorations, including towering Christmas trees can be found here. There are also a number of activities and performances that you can indulge in while you’re here during this period.
Other Socio-Cultural Festivals to Look Out For
Singapore Heritage Festival
Held in the month of July, the Singapore Heritage Festival started as an initiative to allow people to understand and gain a deeper insight into the various cultures in Singapore. It also focuses on educating and promoting various foods, costumes, traditions, art and music of different cultures through heritage tours, cultural performances, and exhibitions.
Singapore International Film Festival (SIFF)
As one of the largest film event in Singapore, the SIFF is also considered to be one of Asia’s premier film festivals that takes place in April. If you’re a film fanatic, this event is a must-attend as the festival screens over 200 international films consisting of several genres. Additionally, there are a number of seminars, exhibitions and workshops that you can partake in.
Singapore Night Festival
Every August, for two weekends, the heritage precinct—the areas in and around Bras Basah and Bugis, features all kinds of performances, artworks and art installations. The Singapore Art Museum, National Museum of Singapore and other locations will be open late into the night to showcase amazing works of art. Be sure to put on some comfortable shoes as you will be doing a lot of walking. This festival also functions as a wonderful platform for new and emerging local and international artists.