What do we celebrate in Singapore?
There are always fun festivities and celebrations to look forward to in SG and we’re not just talking about the regular public holidays here. Check out our curated list of things to commemorate and participate in all year round.
Also called Lunar New Year, it’s a time to get together with family and friends, giving hongbao (red packets of money), and exchanging oranges during house visits and reunion dinners. The yu sheng or lo hei (tossed raw fish salad) is a unique SG tradition. Join in the festivities at the River Hongbao, and don’t miss the spectacular Chinatown light-up and street market.
Celebrated on the full-moon day of the Tamil month of Thai (January and February), this festival sees devotees walk four kilometres between Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple and Sri Thendayuthapani Temple. Carrying a kavadi, colourful metal frame, they are encouraged along by family members chanting hymns and prayers.
Beginning the holiday weekend with Good Friday and ending with Easter Sunday, it’s a great chance to spend time with your family; there are many spots to indulge in a relaxing brunch or go on an egg hunt with your little chicks.
During this month in support of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT)
community, there are talks, parties and even a popular Pink Dot gathering at Hong Lim Park (Speakers’ Corner). While only Singaporeans and Permanent Residents are allowed to attend, you’re free to wear pink in solidarity or join the fringe events at various locations.
Head to the Bedok Reservoir or Kallang River to watch teams race in elongated boats with painted dragon heads, as gongs and drums set the pace. Be sure to try bak chang, rice dumplings filled with meat and wrapped in bamboo leaves, made especially for this festival.
Happening 70 days after Hari Raya Puasa, this is a simpler celebration where fasting is usually optional. As “Haji” means “pilgrim to Mecca”, this marks the end of the Hajj pilgrimage.
Each year, the Red Dot celebrates its 1965 independence with the National Day Parade (NDP), featuring military fanfare and large-scale performances. Tickets are balloted, and only citizens and PRs are eligible. But, there are plenty of paid and free places to watch the fireworks, and you can catch the NDP online. Dress code? Red and white, of course lah.
If you notice food, pieces of paper or paper props by the roadside, don’t touch or step on them. They are offerings to appease “wandering spirits”. Also, don’t be surprised if you happen upon a getai (raucous shows to please these spirits).
Inspired by the Bavarian harvest-time tradition, there are Oktoberfest celebrations all over the island including Oktoberfest Asia and the Swiss Club, Singapore’s popular pop-up tent. Expect lots of “oompah” music, German sausages, pork knuckles and bierkrugs (beer steins) of lagers, ales and pilsners.
Started in ancient China to give thanks for the harvest, there are several fables about this festival’s origin, most popular being the love story between Hou Yi and Chang’e (a.k.a., the Chinese Goddess of the Moon). Join the Mass Lantern Walk in Chinatown, eat yummy mooncakes and look out for elaborate lantern displays.
Also called the “Festival of Lights”, it’s celebrated by Hindus to honour the slaying of Ravana, representing the triumph of good over evil. Female family members create rangoli or kolam, a coloured pattern made out of rice flour in doorways, while the entire family troops to the temple before visiting each other. Little India sees a massive light-up and hosts the Deepavali Festival Village.
You’ll find lots of countdown parties across the city. In addition to CNY and National Day, this is the other big time to watch “ooh”-and-“ahh”-inspiring pyrotechnics.
*Indicates this date is for 2020 only and correct at press time.
Text: Pinky Chng + Andre Theng / Additional Reporting: Sara Lyle Bow, from The Finder Annual Directory 2020 / December 2019
More on The Finder: