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Singapore Festivals

Singapore Festivals (1E)

Despite its reduced size, Singapore plays host to many interesting events throughout the year, including a wide range of sporting events and religious festivals (Muslim, Buddhist, Taoist and Hindu). 

One of Singapore's main festivals is the celebration of the Chinese New Year, which is understandable when one considers that 70% of the population is of Chinese origin. As the festival follows the lunar calendar, the date varies from one year to another, so visitors should pay attention to the calendar. Whatever the exact date, the festival will take place during the month of January. During the Chinese New Year the Chinatown district is festooned with lights and decorations while Marina Bay is transformed in to the perfect setting for impressive lightshows. Festivals and celebrations are held throughout the city, so be sure not to miss them.

This is an important annual holiday during which many people take the opportunity to travel (it is high season) and many businesses close. If you plan to visit Singapore during the Chinese New Year you should you plan well in advance and check to ensure that the attractions you want to visit will be open.

January is also the time for Thaipusam, a Hindu festival celebrated among Singapore's Tamil community. This is an annual procession held in the heart of the Little India district. Devotees travel the 4 km between the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple on Serangoon Road and the Sri Thandayuthapani temple on Tank Road. Many of them carry burdens and pierce themselves with spikes and skewers as a sign of devotion. While a visual spectacle is guaranteed, it may not be everyone's taste because of these explicit demonstrations of devotion.

Coinciding with the May full moon there is Vesak Day, the most important date in the Buddhist calendar. Devotees gather around the Buddhist temples before dawn to initiate a complex ritual. The celebration concludes with a procession of candles through the streets. One of the best places to witness the celebrations is the Lian Shan Shuang Lin temple, the oldest Buddhist temple in Singapore and the second largest in Asia. Another good place to enjoy this day is at the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in Chinatown.

The Dragon Boat Festival is held at the Bedok reservoir, to the East of the city. The festival attracts competing boats from around the world, each with a crew of 22 oarsmen. This is both a traditional Chinese sport and a colourful spectacle. The festival is held on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar, so the date varies from year to year.

August the 9th is  Singapore National Day, which commemorates Singapore's independence from the Federation of Malaysia, which took place on 9th August, 1965. Among other events and celebrations there is the Grand Parade at Marina Bay. 

The Formula I Grand Prix is held during the month of September and the city becomes very crowded over the weekend of the race. What is special about this race is that, unlike the other Formula I races, it is currently the only one held at night-time. Bear in mind that if you plan to travel to see the race you'll have to book well in advance, since the demand for accommodation and services soars during these dates.

The year's most important Hindu festival is an official festival in Singapore, where it is also known as the Festival of Lights. Deepavali, celebrated the 15th day of the waning moon fortnight of the month of Karttika (mid-October to mid-November), is the celebration of the triumph of good over evil, of light over darkness. In representation of this, the locals have adopted the practise of lighting celebratory lanterns. During the Festival the streets of Little India are festooned with colourful decorations and host a variety of activities. Did you know that Hindus believe that during the Deepavali festival, which lasts for several weeks, the souls of deceased loved-ones return to Earth? For this reason devotees cook the deceased's favourite dishes, buy them new clothes and place their offerings on banana leaves in front of photographs of their loved ones.

Hari Raya Haji (Pilgrimage Festival or Day of Sacrifice), also known as Iduladha or Qurban, is a very important festival that marks the end of the Muslim pilgrimage to the Holy City of Mecca. This day recalls the intervention of angels to prevent Ibrahim (Abraham in the Judeo-Christian tradition) from sacrificing his son Ismail (Ishmael). Instead, Ibrahim finally sacrificed a lamb. As a result the focal event of this day consists of honouring Allah by sacrificing goats and buffaloes (usually in the mosques), the meat of which is donated to the poor. It is also a day of prayer. The festival is held on the 10th day of the month of Zil-Hajj, the 12th month of the Muslim calendar, which currently tends to coincide with November.  

Finally, the year ends with the celebration of Christmas, in which, despite the absence of snow, the streets are festooned with lights and decorations. Orchard Road is an essential visit at this time of year, as it is renowned for its Christmas lights and street performers. The Christmas lights are usually turned on towards the end of November, thought the celebrations don't reach their peak until December.

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