Singapore is such a culturally diverse society, containing people from various ethnic groups who have different beliefs, traditions, and heritage. There are, therefore, a wide variety of different festivals and holidays that are celebrated in the country.
There are 10 festivals that are also public holidays, and many others that fall on regular working days (or weekends). The exact dates of some festivals change each year as they follow different calendars. The public holidays in Singapore are for New Year’s Day, Chinese New Year, Hari Raya Pusa, Hari Raya Haji, Good Friday, Labour Day, Vesak Day, National Day, Deepavali, and Christmas Day.
New Year’s Day
New Year is celebrated in Singapore in a similar way to many countries across the world. Numerous large parties occur around the country and there are many colourful lights in the streets and fireworks. New Year’s Day is therefore as you would perhaps expect – a continuation of the party for some, time with family and friends for others, and sleeping off the previous night for other people!
Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year typically falls sometime between January and February, although the precise dates vary as it follows the lunar calendar. It is one of the liveliest and most anticipated traditional festivals in the country, with many Chinese families preparing long in advance for the multi-day celebrations. Whilst you will see a number of traditional customs all around the country, the best place to be is Chinatown, where you’ll see an abundance of red lanterns and other traditional decorations. There are fireworks galore and dragon dances are especially fun to watch. There are many traditional dance and music performances and the fantastic Chingay Parade is a top thing to see.
Hari Raya Pusa
An important holiday for Muslim people, it takes place at the end of Ramadan. It is usual for Muslims to visit the mosque in the morning, followed by a large and lively feast. Many people come together to eat, to end the period of daytime fasting. Kampong Glam is one of the best places to go at this time.
Hari Raya Haji
Another important festival for the Malay and Muslim population, Hari Raya Pusa falls at the end of Hajj, a large annual period for pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca. It remembers Abraham’s devotion to Allah and his agreement to sacrifice his son at the command of Allah. It is celebrated in the morning by males visiting the mosques followed by symbolic sacrifices and giving food to the needy. The day is largely devoted to religious traditions. In the evening people enjoy a meal with their family and friends.
A Christian holiday that remembers the devotion, crucifixion, and death of Jesus Christ, the country’s largest Good Friday celebrations occur at St Joseph’s Church. Many devotees attend the church, taking part in a beautiful candlelit procession. The date varies according to the Christian calendar.
A secular holiday, Labour Day falls on the first of May each year. It is a day to promote unity between working people. Various public events are arranged, but for many locals it is a holiday off work to do with what they wish.
A major Buddhist holiday, Vesak Day falls in April or May. It celebrates the life of Buddha and it is common for Buddhists to visit the temples to take part in merit making ceremonies and worship. There are also traditional performances.
Held on the 9th of August each year to celebrate Singapore’s independence from Malaysia, it is marked by a large parade, with lots of music and dancing. Fireworks light up the night sky and it is a really lively and patriotic day.
Celebrated sometime between October and November (the date changes each year) Deepavali is also sometimes referred to as the Festival of Light. A Hindu celebration, the best places to witness the celebrations are around Little India or at the large and colourful Sri Mariamman Temple. The holiday celebrates the triumph of good over evil and is the start of the Hindu New Year. Traditional cultural performances abound and many Hindus light their homes with bright oil lamps.
As with many other countries, Christmas Day is celebrated on the 25th of December. Decorations can be found right across the country, including Christmas trees and flashing fairy lights. Traditional Christmas fare with an Asian twist can be enjoyed in many eateries.