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10 must-see festivals in Singapore

It doesn’t matter if you’re Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or just having fun – get out there and join your neighbours in the festivities.

Singapore is a cosmopolitan city, influenced by Asian and European cultures, with 10 recognised religions and four official languages. Each major cultural festival, including Singapore's National Day, is celebrated with public holidays. You’ll meet people, make some new friends and learn about different cultures, all while enjoying the celebrations. 

Here are the key dates to look out for. Some celebrations are based on various lunar calendars and the dates change slightly every year.

1. Lunar New Year

This festival is when our ethnic Chinese communities get together and welcome a new beginning. Families will spend time cleaning and decorating their homes, then gather for elaborate meals to celebrate time with the family. Friends and families will also visit one another, exchange gifts and give red packets to children. It's all about harmony and offering best wishes.

But with harmony comes organised chaos. Visit the Lunar New Year bazaar in Chinatown. The street food, lion dances and vibrant decorations are worth braving the crowd for.

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When: January to February, in the first month of the Chinese lunar calendar

Where: Chinatown

2. Thaipusam

Our Hindu Tamil community will gather for this annual two-day festival to honour the Hindu deity Lord Murugan. Devotees will carry pots of milk and carry colourful altars in a procession across Little India. This comes after weeks of a strict vegetarian diet beforehand, and some revellers will even pierce their bodies with spikes to carry their alters. That's what you call dedication.

Want something easier to stomach? Visit the many hawkers food stalls along Serangoon Road and Tank Road to keep up your energy for the festivities. There are a number of hawker stalls on the Michelin Guide’s Bib Gourmand list, and some have even been awarded the prestigious Michelin Star. This is gourmet food at wallet-friendly prices. 

When: January to February, in the Thai month of the Tamil lunar calendar

Where: Little India, along Serangoon Road and Tank Road

3. Vesak Day

Traditional chanting, candlelight processions and offerings are how our Buddhist community observe Vesak Day. Commemorating Buddha's life and enlightenment, observers will spend time reflecting on life and performing good deeds in their community. They may also spend hours chanting or releasing caged animals to symbolise liberation. Find your zen by visiting one of the many Buddhist temples, such as the Kong Men San Phor Kark See and Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monasteries.

When: Usually May, in the fourth month of the Chinese lunar calendar

Where: Temples throughout Singapore

4. Hari Raya Puasa

Hari Raya Puasa, also known as Eid Mubarak, is as colourful as it is religious. After spending the morning on reflecting and making peace with their families, our Muslim community will celebrate the end of the Ramadan fasting month. How will they do that? They'll don eye-catching traditional clothing and prepare for a lavish home-cooked feast together.

Foodies and festival lovers in town should visit the night bazaar at Geylang Serai. Whether you're breaking fast or not, the countless stalls with street food, snacks, jewellery and clothes will amaze you.

When: March to June, in the tenth month of the Islamic lunar calendar

Where: Geylang Serai Bazaar

5. Dragon Boat Festival

The Dragon Boat Festival is a combination of family time and thrills. Ethnic Chinese families will stay home for a meal of sticky rice dumplings wrapped in pandan leaves. A traditional savoury variant with pork, chestnuts and mushrooms, or the sweet version dipped in sugar, are both our favourites.

For the thrill-seekers, visit one of the many dragon boat festivals. Watch the dragon boats battle out to the finish as the crews paddle away in sync with their drummers. Or if you're competing, go all out with your teammates, win a trophy or two, and enjoy the festive fun.

When: May to July, in the fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar

Where: Bedok Reservoir, Kallang River and Gardens by the Bay Marina Channel

6. Hari Raya Haji

Hari Raya Haji is about faith and compassion. Commemorating Prophet Ibrahim's testament of faith, our Muslim community will spend the day in reflection, donating money and giving out meat to the needy. If you're an observer, join them at any mosque in your neighbourhood and relive Prophet Ibrahim's journey of sacrifice. 

When: May to July, in the last month of the Muslim lunar calendar

Where: Mosques throughout Singapore

7. National Day

Singapore's unique history is built upon the dedication of our diverse community. Be part of this saga with different performances paying tribute to the founding of modern Singapore. See boys and girls in uniform march in precision under a helicopter fly past at the National Day Parade, and feel the crowd's jubilant spirit as they cheer on for the nation's future. Then join the fireworks celebrations in Marina Bay at night for the perfect sign-off.

When: 9 August

Where: Float at Marina Bay

8. Mid-Autumn Festival

On the night when the moon is at its brightest, ethnic Chinese families will gather for a night of mooncakes, fruits and tea. As much as for the big bright moon, this festival is also about family unity. Children will find this festival particularly interesting as they play with colourful lanterns around their neighbourhood.

Want something exciting? Visit Chinatown and celebrate with the jostling crowd. The street food, lion dances, dragon dances, night markets and performances will definitely get you going.

When: September to October, in the eighth month of the Chinese lunar calendar

Where: Various

9. Deepavali

Our Hindu community will commemorate the triumph of light over darkness in this joyous 'festival of lights'. Visit Little India on Deepavali and feel the vibrant Indian culture in our city. You can experience the festival's energy, with plenty of lights, kaleidoscopic arches, busy bazaars and Indian sweets. Take this chance to shop for intricately sewn saris, heady ayurvedic massage oils and more. We guarantee there will be plenty of Instagram moments.

When: October or November, in the Kartik month of the Hindu lunar calendar

Where: Little India

10. Christmas

It's summer all year round in Singapore, so why not get ready for a hot Christmas season? Just like in other parts of the world, you can decorate your home with ornaments and prepare your Christmas feast for friends coming over. You can even order a Christmas tree if you'd like.

Shop away at Christmas markets all around Singapore with the festive decors and delicacies you would expect, then take a stroll along Orchard Road and marvel at the light decorations. Happy holidays.

When: 25 December

Where: Orchard Road, or wherever you like

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