When thinking about what kind of experience you’d like to have in Singapore, the Lion City’s top attractions may be the first things that come to mind. Famous mainstay attractions like Marina Bay Sands and Universal Studios Singapore are certainly worth visiting any time of the year. But if you’d like to experience the spirit of Singapore in unique ways, consider putting one of its spectacular festivities on your travel itinerary.
Since Singapore is a multi-ethnic society, the locals have plenty of opportunities to celebrate their rich culture and tradition. Let’s take a look at eight of Singapore’s annual festivals that are worth adjusting your travel schedule for. Time your visit to the city, book a room in one of the hotels near Singapore airport, and head to these events with an open mind, heart, and stomach.
Singapore Food Festival
The Singapore Food Festival is perfect for travellers who come to the city hungry for Singapore’s delectable cuisine. This festival showcases the city’s multicultural Chinese, Malay, Indian, Eurasian, and Peranakan heritage through its diverse food options, from timeless traditional cuisine to modern favourites.
Aside from treating festival goers to delicious food, this event also provides international chefs with a platform to flaunt their culinary skills. Patrons can also get cooking lessons and learn how to cook some of Singapore’s popular dishes the Singaporean way.
Entry to the festival is free, and patrons will only need to pay for the things they’ll purchase. The festival is held all over the city-state, but if you want to go to the best spots, Clifford Square and Chinatown are the places to be. The Singapore Food Festival is typically held in July, but the exact event date is subject to change.
Singapore HeritageFest (SHF) is celebrated to empower and inspire Singaporeans to keep their heritage alive. Each year, the festival highlights a certain aspect of Singapore that has made the city what it is today. Some of these subjects include the city’s public transportation, natural heritage, and ASEAN connections.
During this festival, people are treated to various exhibitions, guided tours, workshops, and digital offerings that tell the story of Singapore’s rich heritage. The Singapore HeritageFest is usually held in May. If you are free that month, consider going and celebrating the festivities with the locals.
Dragon Boat Festival
One of the most exciting festivals you can attend in Singapore is the Dragon Boat Festival. This festival honours the famous Chinese scholar Qu Yuan, a highly-regarded minister of state who was known for his honesty.
People celebrate by watching or participating in the dragon boat races, as well as eating copious amounts of glutinous rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves. The Dragon Boat Festival is held on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. You can catch the festival at Bedok Reservoir, Kallang River, or DBS Marina Regatta at Marina Bay.
The Mid-Autumn Festival marks the end of the autumn harvest, and it’s also the time when people give thanks to the gods. This festival is held on the fifteenth day of the lunar calendar’s eighth month (between the middle and end of September), which is also when the moon is shining at its brightest.
Most of the festival’s celebrations occur when dusk falls. Once the city is bathed in moonlight, its streets are lit with thousands of lanterns and filled with the sounds of people enjoying mooncakes and sipping tea. Locals also host moon-viewing parties to celebrate the festivities with their friends and relatives.
What’s more, people can enjoy traditional Chinese storytelling and cross-talk performances at Esplanade, one of Singapore’s popular performing arts centres. If you’re a tourist headed to Singapore in autumn, don’t miss the Mid-Autumn Festival there.
Hungry Ghost Festival
During the seventh month of the lunar calendar (August to September), the Chinese in Singapore celebrates the Hungry Ghost Festival. As per Chinese custom, it’s believed that the souls of the deceased roam the earth during this time of the year. Thus, to appease them, people give them offerings by burning joss sticks, food, and paper money.
Observing these festivities will provide visitors to Singapore a way to understand how deeply connected Chinese Singaporeans are to their Chinese heritage. It also gives travellers a chance to experience getai (Chinese opera) performances, which are held to entertain guests and wandering spirits.
For the Tamils in Singapore, Pongal is a revered celebration that offers thanksgiving to Surya, the Sun God, for a bountiful harvest. In India and Sri Lanka, Pongal is officially celebrated over the course of four days. However, Pongal in Singapore is celebrated throughout the month of Thai or the tenth month of the Tamil calendar (mid-January to mid-February).
During this month-long celebration, people can enjoy a series of song and dance performances, workshops, and hands-on activities in Singapore’s Little India.
Hari Raya Puasa
Hari Raya Puasa marks the end of Ramadan, and for Singapore’s Muslim community, it’s a time to seek forgiveness and to strengthen bonds among family and friends. During this holy festival, Singapore’s Muslim community feast on good food and don new clothes, giving people a glimpse of how they celebrate their faith.
During Hari Raya Puasa, people of all religions can enjoy the halal foods and wares that are offered in bazaars such as Geylang Serai Ramadan Bazaar, Kampong Glam Bazaar, and Sembawang West Bazaar Ramadan. Partake in the joy of Eid al-Fitr and celebrate Hari Raya Puasa in Singapore.
Lunar New Year
Lunar New Year is one of the biggest festivals celebrated in Singapore. This festival begins on the first day of the first lunar month in the Chinese calendar, which falls between the last week of January and early February.
During Lunar New Year celebrations, people can expect Singapore’s streets to be lit up in colourful lights and adorned with striking red decorations. Traditional lion and dragon dances can also be seen in Chinatown, and at both the quays along the Singapore River. Locals and visitors alike can enjoy traditional Chinese sweets like long xu tang (Dragon Beard candy) and be amazed by the various products being sold in the night markets.
Singapore is more than just the city where you can find the Merlion statue, Marina Bay Sands, and the Singapore Flyer. It’s also a city that houses a melting pot of cultures and traditions that have been kept alive by its people. Thanks to the numerous festivals held each year, travellers and locals can partake in the joy, gratitude, and celebration of culture that characterise life in Singapore.