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EVENTS

The multicultural people of Singapore celebrate with the roar of a Chinese dragon at New Year, feasting for the living and the dead and dancing with the fervour of religious passion. Every phase of the lunar cycle brings a new opportunity for colour and festivity.

Because they follow the lunar calendar, the dates of Chinese, Hindu and Muslim festivals vary from year to year. Chinese New Year, in January or February, is welcomed in with dragon dances, parades and much good cheer. Chinatown is lit up with fireworks and night markets. Vesak Day in May celebrates Buddha's birth, enlightenment and death. It is marked by various events, including the release of caged birds to symbolise the liberation of captive souls. The Dragon Boat Festival, held in May or June, commemorates the death of a Chinese patriot who drowned himself as a protest against government corruption. It is celebrated with boat races across Marina Bay, accompanied by much eating of rice dumplings.

The Chinese Festival of the Hungry Ghosts is usually celebrated in September. This is when the souls of the dead are released for feasting and entertainment on earth. Chinese operas are performed for them and food is offered; the ghosts eat the spirit of the food but thoughtfully leave the substance for the mortal celebrants. During Ramadan, food stalls are set up in the evening in the Arab St district, near the Sultan Mosque. Hari Raya Puasa, the end of Ramadan in November, is marked by three days of joyful celebrations. The festival of Thaipusam is one of the most dramatic Hindu festivals and is now banned in India. Devotees honour Lord Subramaniam with acts of amazing body-piercing - definitely not for the squeamish. In Singapore, devotees march in procession from the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple on Serangoon Rd to the Chettiar Hindu Temple on Tank Rd. Dates for the festival vary according to the lunar calendar.

May - Vesak Day
9 Aug - National Day
1 May - Labour Day
Mar/Apr - Good Friday
Feb/Mar - Hari Raya Haji
1 Jan - New Year's Day
Jan/Feb - Chinese New Year
Oct - Deepavali
25 Dec - Christmas Day


When to Go

Go anytime. Climate is not a major consideration, as Singapore gets fairly steady annual rainfall. Co-ordinate your visit with one of the various festivals and events: Thaipusam is a spectacular festival, occurring around February. If shopping and eating are major concerns, April brings the Singapore Food Festival and the Great Singapore Sale is held in June.



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