There is an interesting mix of culture and festivals in Singapore. Because its population is heterogeneously made up of people from Chinese, Malay, and Indian roots, and the nation itself experienced years of British influence, Singapore has developed a very unique culture.
Many years ago, there were marked boundaries between each race, boundaries that were defined by distinct physical divisions representing each ethnic group. Chinatown, for example, was obviously where the Chinese settled. It reflected everything about their culture – the food, the colors, the designs in buildings, and the festivities. Kampong Glam was where the Malay sultan lived and headquartered before the British colonized Singapore in 1819. Many years later, Malays from neighbor countries moved to Kampong Glam. The area showcased the rich Malay and Muslim background of the locals. Little India, as the name suggests, was where the Indians lived. They filled it with the vibrancy of their festivals and the strong flavor of their spices.
At present, the cultural distinction among the three ethnic groups is almost not evident anymore. Over the years, the residents of Singapore have existed so harmoniously with each other that their cultures and practices have blended well together to give way to the new Singaporean. Thus, the culture and festivals in Singapore are no longer distinct and localized among the three ethnic groups. However, there are exceptions to this, as some practices have remained intact such as the celebration of certain Hindu festivals and some Muslim practices.
Important festivals are reflected in Singapore’s major public holidays. These are Chinese New Year, Eid Ul Fitr, Vesak Day, and Diwali. Chinese New Year is one the biggest celebrations among the culture and festivals in Singapore. It is a time for large family dinners and family reunions. The event is celebrated with firecrackers and splendid fireworks displays.
Eid Ul Fitr is a three-day celebration signifying the end of the Muslim month of fasting called Ramadan. On the morning of this day, Muslims converge in the mosques for the Eid prayer. Afterward, they go out to visit family and friends, exchange well wishes with them, and give gifts to children.
Vesak Day is a Buddhist festival celebrating the birth of Buddha and his enlightenment as he attained the state of Nirvana. On this day, Buddhist devotees visit the temples to meditate and to give their offerings. Buddhist devotees hold processions in the streets. This is also a day when generous acts are observed, such as donating blood in hospitals and giving alms to the needy.
The Diwali, also known as the festival of lights, is one of the most colorful festivals in Singapore. It is celebrated not just by Hindu believers but by everyone. On this day, Little India is clad with bright lights in attractive colors, and other eye-catching traditional decorations are draped on the street. Tourists flock to Little India to taste the traditional Indian food being sold on the street, to buy many items on bargain, and even to have their hands painted with henna.
Important Christian celebrations are also considered as holidays in Singapore even though Christians make up the minority of the population. These holidays are Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and Good Friday. The culture and festivals in Singapore are a joyous treat to any tourist, so try to plan your visit during a festival celebration.