Singapore, one long party
Elena Ortega Elena Ortega Elena Ortega
The most important festivals celebrated in Singapore have a religious or ethnic origin; Thaipusam, for example, is dedicated to the Hindu god, Subramaniam. During the procession, some devotees, as a sign of penance, may pierce their skin with spikes and nails or flog themselves with sticks or ropes. The traditional procession usually takes place in February, leaving from the Sri Srinivasa Perumal temple, on Serangoon Road, and ending at the temple of Sri Thandayuthapani, on Tank Road.
Deepavali is another of the most popular festivals among the Indian community. Hindu temples and the Little India and Farrer Park neighbourhoods welcome this festival with a special joy; it’s also called the Festival of Lights, as it symbolises the triumph of light over darkness.
The Chinese, the most abundant ethnic group in the country, await the New Year with particular excitement. It is their most representative festival, lasting about two weeks between January and February, the beginning of the Chinese calendar, and celebrated with copious family dinners. During the festivities, you can find events just about anywhere in the city.
The Mid-Autumn Festival, Vesak Day and the Hungry Ghost Festival also feature on the Chinese calendar. The first takes place on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month, when during the full moon, colourful paper lanterns light up the streets. Mooncake is the typical sweet at the festival, a kind of biscuit filled with lotus seeds. Vesak Day, on the full moon in May, is when Buddhists remember Siddhārtha Gautama, the Buddha. It is the most important tradition for devotees, when they celebrate the birth, enlightenment and Nirvana of the Buddha, taking vegetarian food, flowers, candles, incense and other offerings to their temples.
The Hungry Ghost Festival is held on the fifteenth night of the seventh lunar month of the Chinese calendar (between July and September on the Gregorian calendar). The Chinese believe that on that night the gates of hell are opened so that the spirits can roam freely over the earth. The streets of Chinatown are filled with offerings of food and money in honour of their deceased relatives.
The most important festival for Muslims is Hari Raya Puasa. The Kampong Glam and Geylang Serai areas are decorated to celebrate the end of Ramadan.
Singapore has been greatly influenced by the West, and this is never more apparent than during the Christmas celebrations. Every year, shopping centres and streets are adorned with thousands of lights and decorations, yet another excuse to go shopping.
Other kinds of festival are also worth a special mention: the Singapore International Film Festival lasts for three weeks and screens short films, documentaries and animated films in various venues around the city; the Big Sales, which go on from May to July; the Singapore Airlines International Cup, one of the world’s most important horse races, and the Dragon Boat Festival, the classic national sport.