The wide diversity of cultural heritage Singapore has given this small country a big list of holidays to celebrate. Holidays of different faiths are observed, as are holidays pertaining to the history of Singapore. These are declared by the Ministry of Manpower almost a year in advance, and were consulted with various community and spiritual leaders to maximize the holidays but keep good economic balance.
Here are the official holidays and non-working days for Singapore this 2016. It’s a great guide for planning your trip, and it’ll help you experience the best of what this small but exciting country has to offer.
New Year’s Day
Like the rest of the world, Singapore welcomes the start of the Gregorian New Year with lots of light, loud fireworks, and celebrations all throughout the city state.
Chinese Lunar New Year’s Day
The new year of the lunar calendar is one of the highlights of Singapore’s holidays. Preparations begin weeks before the actual date, including cooking food and cleaning out homes to sweep away any lingering bad fortune. Chinatown and many of the city’s major streets are decorated and lighted up for the Spring Festival (which is another name for the Lunar New Year). The festival held from the first month of the lunar calendar, and ends on its 15th day. People take this time to visit temples to get their fortunes and wish for a prosperous new year ahead. Families hold a reunion dinner on the eve of the new year, and they also visit one another to pay respects to their ancestors. Children receive red envelopes from their elders called hongbao, which are filled with money. Guests can experience traditional Chinese dragon and lion dancers, fireworks, customs, and food during this time.
Second day of Chinese Lunar New Year
This is known as the “beginning of the year”. Activities and events from the previous day are extended to today, and many take this time to visit family and friends.
The Christians commemorate Good Friday as the day when Jesus Christ died on the cross. This is a public holiday all throughout Singapore, and Christians celebrate it by attending mass.
May 1, observed May 2
Like many countries around the world, Singapore celebrates Labour Day on this date. It commemorates the hard work and sacrifices of the regular labourers, and recognizes their contributions to the country’s economy.
Vesak Day commemorates three key events of Buddha”s life: his birth, his enlightenment, and his death. The date of Vesak changes each year, depending on the luna-solar calendar, but it generally falls under the full moon of the month of Vaisakha of the Buddhist calendar. Dawn ceremonies are held at various temples, and devotees flock to them with offering of incense, flowers, and candles. Vegetarian food is the day’s staple. Devout Buddhists are encouraged to follow the path of Buddha’s teachings, particularly the Five Precepts. They are also urged to practice the art of giving happiness to the less fortunate.
Hari Raya Puasa
In other countries, this is known as Eid al-Fitr. It is the end of Ramadan, the month-long season of fasting and prayer for the Muslims. Many would go home to their hometowns to be with their families, and seek pardon from their parents or elders. It is a day of celebration and thanksgiving for the Muslims.
In 1965 on this date, Singapore received its independence from Malaysia. Each year, the country commemorates this event with a National Day parade, with the Prime Minister of Singapore making a speech to the people about the country’s future and challenges. Fireworks also play a part in the festivities, with various teams presenting colorful displays to cap off the celebrations.
Hari Raya Haji
This festival is commonly known in Singapore as the Festival of Sacrifice. Celebrations for Hari Raya Haji typically lasts for four days, and it commemorates the willingness of the prophet Ibrahim to follow Allah’s will. The first day of the festival falls under the 10th day of the month of Zulhjjah. It also coincides with the end of the largest yearly pilgrimage called Hajj. On this day, male volunteers go to the mosques for prayers and reflection. Visits to families and friends are also done during this time.
Singapore has dubbed Deepavali as the Festival of Lights. It seems very fitting, as it is all about how good, or light, triumphs over evil, or dark. Legends tell the story of Narakasura, who was blessed with a kingdom to rule. However, he was a tyrant, and the people asked Lord Krishna for help. Lord Krishna eventually defeated Narakasura. People celebrated his return by lighting oil lamps to ward off the darkness brought about by the new moon. Today, devotees celebrate by wearing new clothes, having their hands painted with henna, and decorating streets with bright colors and festive lights.
The absence of snow doesn’t stop Singapore from getting into the feel of Christmas. It is a special holiday for the Christians in the counrty, celebrating it with thanksgiving mass, and feasting with families and friends. But even the non-Christians get into the spirit of things, by going to the many activities and events hosted by malls and shopping centers.
Photo by Bernard Tey