Singapore is a cosmopolitan city, influenced by Asian and European cultures, with 10 officially recognised religions and four languages. Each major cultural festival, including Singapore's National Day, is celebrated with public holidays.
It doesn’t matter if you’re Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, or just having fun – get out and join your neighbours in the festivities. You’ll meet people, make some new friends and learn about different cultures, all while enjoying the celebrations.
Here are the big dates to look out for in 2020.
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.
When: 25-26 January 2020
Our 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: 8 February 2020
Where: Little India, along Serangoon Road and Tank Road
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: 7 May 2020
Where: Temples throughout Singapore
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: 24 May 2020
Where: Geylang Serai Bazaar
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: 25 June 2020
Where: Bedok Reservoir, Kallang River and Gardens by the Bay Marina Channel
Hari Raya Haji
Hari Raya Haji is about faith and compassion. Commemorating 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: 31 July 2020
Where: Mosques throughout Singapore
Singapore's unique history is built upon the dedication of our diverse community. Be part of this saga on the 55th National Day, with different performances paying tribute to the founding of modern Singapore. See boys and girls in uniform march in precision under a helicopter flypast 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 2020
Where: Float at Marina Bay
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: 1 October 2020
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: 14 November 2020
Where: Little India
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 fancy.
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 2020
Where: Orchard Road, or wherever you like