There are a variety of public holidays in Singapore, which reflect the many different religions prevalent in the state. The Chinese New Year is celebrated alongside Good Friday, Deepavali, Hari Raya Puasa, and Vesak Day. On top of the religious public holidays in Singapore, there is, of course, National Day, a day that celebrates the independence of the state. All in all, there are 10 public holidays in Singapore which are observed throughout the year. Despite the multiculturalism, subtle discrimination is still prevalent in Singapore.
The Chinese New Year is one of the most important public holidays in Singapore, due to the large Chinese population in the country. The celebrations usually take place in February and mark a new year of prosperity and good luck. Each year, families take the opportunity to celebrate this holiday by decorating their home with red lanterns and doing a thorough spring cleaning.
In Chinatown, little stalls are set up – sometimes weeks before the actual celebration – where you can buy fireworks and decorations. But the most important aspect of this public holiday in Singapore is the family reunion dinner on New Year’s Eve. The entire family gets together to celebrate a new beginning. Children are excited about the tradition of gift-giving.
Vesak Day is the only Buddhist celebration among the public holidays in Singapore. It is the most important holiday for Buddhists, in commemoration of the birth, enlightenment (Nirvana), and death (Parinirvana) of Gautama Buddha. The aim of Vesak Day is to practice love, peace, and harmony. Devoted Buddhists gather in the early morning before dawn at their temple to chant, sing hymns, and celebrate. Flowers, incense, and candles are placed at the statues’ feet.
Performing good deeds is a central aspect of Vesak Day. Buddhists often organize charity events or mass blood donations on this day. These acts of generosity are also referred to as Dana. The day ends with a candle-lit procession, often performed in accordance with the “three steps, one bow” ritual. During this ritual, devoted Buddhists move forward on their knees, bowing at every third step.
As part of the population is Indian, some public holidays in Singapore have an Indian origin, such as Deepavali. The name of the holiday literally translates to “row of lights” and is the most important festivity in Hinduism. It is celebrated in the last quarter of the year. While there are many legends surrounding the heritage of this holiday, there is a very traditional way to celebrate Deepavali in Singapore: Hindus paint their hands with henna art.
Even if you are not a Hindu and to you Deepavali is the least important of the public holidays in Singapore, Little India is always worth a visit during this time. The streets are colorful and light up in bright, festive decorations. Of course, there are also various events surrounding the holiday, including a street parade, exhibitions, and concerts.
Among the public holidays in Singapore which are observed by the Muslim population is Hari Raya Haji. The holiday is also known as the “festival of sacrifice” and is celebrated for three days. Muslims celebrate the end of Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca. The celebrations are used to pray, reflect, and share one’s wealth with the less fortunate. In the areas of Geyland Serai and Kampong Glam, you can partake in festivities, visit the bazaars, and enjoy the beautiful decorations.
All in all, there are two Muslim public holidays in Singapore. Hari Raya Haji is one of them; the other is Hari Raya Aidilfitri (Eid al-Fitr). The latter commemorates the end of the Ramadan and is celebrated on a grand scale. After the preceding 30 days have been devoted to worship, acts of compassion, and practicing abstinence, it is now time for large festivities. The most important aspect of Hari Raya Aidilfitri is the feast. A variety of spiced meals, such as vegetable curry, Malay spice cakes, and spicy beef, are served during the three days of celebration.
The public holidays in Singapore are a direct reflection of the different ethnicities, cultures, and religions that have shaped the country. Still, Singapore’s National Day on August 9th is the biggest celebration of the entire year. The festivities already begin in the days leading up to National Day when the entire city is feeling the patriotic vibe and prepares for the big day.
National flags are everywhere during that week. There are festive sales, activities for kids, spectacular aerial performances at Marina Bay, and, of course, the famous National Parade. The tickets for the parade are much sought after and can go quickly. If you don’t manage to secure one of those tickets, just take your loved ones to the Marina and enjoy the fireworks.
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