With its multi-ethnic population, Singapore celebrates a myriad of festivals throughout the year. If you plan on visiting Singapore, you'll enjoy mingling with the locals during these festivals. Here are 3 festivals in Singapore which visitors would not want to miss.
Thaipusam Festival (moving date, January or February):
Thaipusam is a festival to honor the Hindu deity, Lord Subramaniam. It is a time for Hindus to perform acts of penance or to give thanks for answered prayers.
In the weeks leading to Thaipusam, devotees spend up to a month praying and fasting. When the day arrives, friends and family help to load a cage-like steel frame onto the devotee's body. This frame, which is also called a kavadi, may weigh up to 30kg! It is elaborately decorated with images of Hindu deities and peacock feathers. Spikes and other sharp objects also extend from the kavadi into the devotee's body.
Once ready, the devotee goes on a 4km procession, often skipping and dancing along the way. His friends and family cheer him on throughout the journey from temple to temple. This is a see-it-to-believe-it kind of festival.
Chinese New Year (moving date, January or February):
Chinese New Year is probably the most loved Chinese festival. It originated in China, where it is also called the Spring Festival because farming communities traditionally 'welcome the Spring'.
In Singapore, Chinese families begin the celebrations by shopping for Chinese New Year goodies and decorations. In the 3 or 4 weeks leading to Chinese New Year's Day, the streets of Chinatown bustle with roadside stalls and throngs of shoppers. The whole area is also decorated with quaint Chinese lanterns. Nightly street performances add to the festive atmosphere.
Then on New Year's Eve, the Chinese family comes together for a reunion dinner. This is a time when family members from far and near gather at their parents' home for the most important meal in the Chinese calendar. Visits to relatives' homes follow on Chinese New Year's Day and for several days after that.
If you are in Singapore during Chinese New Year, you must visit the River Hong Bao Carnival, which is usually held near the Singapore River. Some of the best Chinese acrobats and dancers perform here nightly. Look out also for the beautiful handicrafts and lanterns at the bazaar. These are worth a look even if you don't intend to buy anything. Then when you have had you fill, head for the Esplanade Bridge to enjoy the fireworks display.
The Orchard Road Christmas Light Up (Mid-November to End of December):
For more than 20 years now, the Orchard Road Christmas Light Up has captivated both locals and visitors to Singapore. In fact, 20% of visitors at the Christmas Light Up are repeat visitors.
If you head down to Orchard Road during this time, you will obviously find the usual Christmas fare - dramas and carols performed by church groups. But perhaps you will be most enchanted by the Christmas lights. Uncountable fairy lights, bells and baubles hang over Singapore's main shopping belt. They adorn the entire 5km stretch from Orchard Road to Marina Bay. The magical glow of the Orchard Road Light Up will bring out the wide-eyed child in you.
If you come from the Northern Hemisphere, this is a great chance to experience Christmas with a difference, right in the warmth of the Tropics.
About the Author
Gabriel Tan is the editor of eTour Singapore. He provides tips and hundreds of photos/videos for planning an enjoyable Singapore tour.