In addition to the public holidays, as covered in last week’s article, there are many other celebrations all throughout the year in Singapore. Some festivals have historic religious and spiritual associations, whilst others are more modern in their origins.
Some of the main festivals and celebrations in Singapore (next to public holidays) include:
Hungry Ghosts Festival
With deep-seated traditional Taoist roots, this is said to be a time when deceased souls walk upon the earth. Typically falling in either August or September, the date changes each year; the festival follows the lunar calendar. Many members of the Chinese community take this festival very seriously, becoming even more superstitious than normal and conducting their daily activities with increased caution. Many offerings of food and drink are given to the spirits to keep them satisfied, and it is customary for people to burn incense to please the ghosts. You may also see people burning symbolic items – these are believed to pass to the ghosts in the afterlife. The festival is also celebrated with large and glamorous performances of music, singing and dancing.
A Hindu festival, the best place to see the incredible festivities is in Little India. Held on the 30th of January each year, the main focus is a procession to honour and respect the Hindu deity Subramaniam. A major feature is that people carry a variety of “burdens”, with many going so far as to practice self-mortification. It is usual to see people with large rods and hooks piercing their bodies! Other, sometimes extreme, acts of sacrifice are carried out too, including walking on beds of hot coals.
Dragon Boat Races
Held in May or June, these spectacular races see people from all across the globe competing. Held at Marina Bay, watching the majestic dragon boats glide along the water can be quite thrilling.
Qing Ming Festival
A day for Singaporean Chinese people to remember and offer their respects to their ancestors, the Qing Ming Festival begins very early on the 5th of April. Large feasts are prepared for deceased family members and lots of incense is burnt. Many people spend the day with their family.
River Hong Bao Festival
Helalding the beginning of the Chinese New Year, the date changes from year to year. A spectacular festival with large lanterns, colourful lights, and fireworks, you’ll also see big displays of the characters from the traditional Chinese horoscope as well as famous characters from Chinese mythology. There are even more food carts than normal offering a tasty array of Chinese fare and cooking demonstrations are held in many places. Numerous performances of singing and dancing take place.
Falling in June, this is a great time for lovers of Chinese dumplings! Offering much more than food though, visitors can also enjoy colourful performances, orchestral demonstrations, opera, dance shows, dragon dancing, and karaoke. It is certainly a vibrant time of the year!
There are festivals dedicated to shopping, food, the arts, fashion, street entertainers … and more! There is often something fun and interesting happening in Singapore! If you are around for any of the festivals you are all but guaranteed to have a fascinating experience.