Singapore’s vibrant mix of cultures and ethnicities is one of the country’s points of pride. Here, Chinese, Malays, Indians and other ethnic groups are able to live together in harmony. Everyone, no matter their ethnic or religious background, is also able to freely practice their traditions and customs, which are made manifest in the many festivals and holidays that are also often celebrated collectively by the people of Singapore.
Revel as the Singaporeans do by booking a Singapore travel combo with Traveloka, and plan your trip around the major festivals in our list!
Chinese New Year
As an island-state with a sizable Chinese population—about 74.3% of Singaporeans according to the 2017 census—Singapore celebrates Chinese New Year (also known as Lunar New Year or Spring Festival) with much gusto. The first day of the festivities begins on the new moon that appears between the 21st of January and the 20th of February—a cosmic occasion that is met with much fanfare and revelry.
Chinatown is the center of all things Spring Festival in Singapore, and the neighborhood is usually awash with festive decorations during this time. Tourists are welcome to attend the Street Light-Up event, when the lanterns that line that streets are illuminated for the first time. Lion dances and other performances are held that same evening at the Kreta Ayer Square. There’s also the Chingay Parade over at the Marina Bay Waterfront, deemed the largest float parade and street performance in all of Asia, as well as the Chinese New Year event called the River Hongbao, held annually at the floating platform on Marina Bay called NS Square.
Commonly referred to as “Buddha’s Birthday,” Vesak Day is an important event celebrated by the Buddhist community of Singapore, one that is permanently marked as a national public holiday. Revelers converge upon the many Buddhist temples in the city for traditional ceremonies and offer flowers, candles and joss sticks. Practitioners of the religion usually spend the rest of the day performing good deeds and devoting their time to worthy causes, believing that by doing so, their merit multiplies several times over.
Even if you do not practice Buddhism, visitors can attend the candlelight procession at Phor Kark See Temple to join in the festivities. Guests are also welcome to marvel at the illuminated central Buddha statue at the Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple, also known as the Temple of 1000 Lights.
Diwali or Deepavali is the Hindu festival of lights, a five-day celebration that usually falls on the months of October or November each year. On this joyous occasion, Indian families celebrate the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil. The primary deity worshipped is Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity.
In the days leading up to the festival, celebrants clean, decorate, and sometimes renovate their homes and workplaces, as it is believed that whoever has the cleanest house will be visited by the goddess first. During the festival, all of Little India will be awash with brightly colored lanterns, and Indian households will also put out lanterns in order to light the goddess’s path.
You can celebrate with Singapore’s Hindu community by joining the Silver Chariot procession that happens on the lead-up to Deepavali, or by visiting the many bazaars and markets that open in Little India over the festival period, such as the Deepavali Festival Village.
Singapore’s Lantern Festival or Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the country’s most colorful, celebrated on the day the moon shines the brightest. Traditionally held in the past as a thanksgiving for good harvests, this is a festival when groups of friends and families gather together for moon viewing parties, as well as to eat moon cakes while the city is aglow with enchanting lights and lanterns.
Head over to Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay for the Chinese arts festival known as Moonfest, and witness a variety of performances, including Chinese opera, puppetry shows, and dances. The Supertree Grove over at Gardens by the Bay is also often decorated for the event, with Mid-Autumn Festival-themed light installations that will surely delight merrymakers.
Hari Raya Aidilfitri
The festival of Eid al-Fitr is a religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide. It marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, a sober period of repentance observed by practitioners of the Islamic faith by performing extra prayers and fasting from dawn until dusk. In Singapore, the festival is known as Hari Raya Aidilfitri or Hari Raya Puasa.
Hari Raya dinners are usually multi-course home-cooked feasts that feature Muslim Malaysian dishes and plenty of sweets. Visit the Geylang Serai Bazaar to sample beef rendang, rice cakes called ketupat, a festival mainstay, and kueh lapis, a traditional layered cake.
Check out the Visit Singapore website for a complete listing of the festivals and events you can attend in the Lion City throughout the year. Aside from cultural festivals, Singapore hosts music festivals, food festivals, and major sporting events, too! There’s always something happening somewhere, so be sure to take a look at what’s going on during your trip.