Singapore Festivals in 2016

If you didn’t manage to squeeze Singapore into your recent year-end vacation, you’ll be glad to know that Christmas is not the only time to enjoy the festivities in Singapore.  Thanks to our multi-cultural and multi-racial society, we celebrate many festivals round the year.  So if you’re visiting Singapore in 2016, here are three of my favourite festivals to plan your trip around.

Thaipusam
24 January 2016

Photo by www.yoursingapore.com

Photo by www.yoursingapore.com

The first key festival of the year, Thaipusam is celebrated by Tamils to commemorate the day Parvati (the Hindu goddess of love, fertility and devotion) gave Murugan (the god of war) a divine javelin to slay the demon Soorapadman.  During this two-day festival, Hindus fulfil vows, offer thanks and seek blessings for the year ahead.

If you’ve never witnessed Thaipusam, it’ll certainly be an eye-opener.  In Singapore, the celebration begins on the eve, with a colourful chariot procession from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple to Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple.

And at the crack of dawn the next day, devotees will walk from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple to Sri Thendayuthapani Temple.  Women will carry a pot of milk to symbolise fertility and abundance, and men will balance kavadis, chanting hymns and playing music along the way.  Some devotees balance towering kavadis on their shoulders, while others may carry spiked kavadis that pierce the body and tongue and weigh more than 30 kg!  In other words, these processions are nothing short of spectacular.

Lunar New Year
8-9 February 2016

Photo by www.yoursingapore.com

Photo by www.yoursingapore.com

Also known as the Spring Festival, this is the first and most important day on the Chinese calendar.  Legend has it that the mythical beast Nian had been eating villagers until a visiting god revealed that the beast was afraid of the colour red and loud noises.  Since then, the Chinese have worn red clothes, hung red lanterns and scrolls, and set off firecrackers on this special occasion to ward off the beast.

In our modern society, Lunar New Year is simply a time to celebrate family, friends, good fortune and great food.  On the eve of Lunar New Year, family members from near and far will gather to share the most important meal of the year – the Reunion Dinner.

The following days will be spent visiting relatives and friends, and the littles ones will receive red packets stuffed with money.  The highlight for me, however, is the delicious snacks such as bak kwa (sweet barbequed meat), pineapple tarts and shrimp rolls served at these gatherings.  If you’re invited to visit a friend during Lunar New Year, take the opportunity to sample everything you’re served!  And don’t forget to bring a pair of mandarin oranges for your hosts – these are symbols of good luck!

Festivities begin a month before Lunar New Year, so visit Chinatown for the street light-up, festive markets and lion dances.  Or, watch the Chingay Parade, the largest multi-cultural street performance and float parade in Asia on 19 and 20 February!

Hari Raya Aidilfitri
6 July 2016

Photo by www.yoursingapore.com

Photo by www.yoursingapore.com

For the Muslim community in Singapore, this is one most important festivals.  As you know, during the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk, and devote their time to worship and charitable deeds.  This special day marks the end of fasting.

Also known as Hari Raya Puasa of Eid, it is a day of joyous celebration.  Families will put on bright new clothes and head to the mosque for special prayers.  They then spend the day visiting their parents, elders and relatives.

If you’re invited to a Hari Raya meal, you’re in for a rare treat.  Nothing beats home-cooked beef rendang and chicken rendang, spicy stews that will whet your appetite.  I’m also addicted to homemade sambal (chilli paste), as well as traditional cakes!

In fact, you don’t have to wait for an invite during Hari Raya Aidilfitri to enjoy these irresistible Malay dishes.  Geylang Serai offers a wide variety of mains and snacks, and they may be enjoyed even before Hari Raya Aidilfitri during the month of Ramandan!  Since I personally love spicy food, these are some of my greatest guilty indulgences.

For more information on festivals celebrated in Singapore, speak to your personal assistant at Capella Singapore.

Capella Singapore’s Insider’s Guide To Singapore

Singapore, often synonymous with its tall skyscrapers and giant shopping centres, also has a rich tapestry of culture and history that is sometimes overlooked.  However, to fully appreciate present day Singapore, it is essential that we look back to the past and appreciate the firm foundations on which our future has been laid.  It was an honour for me to help put together and attend a curated tour of Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam, called the Insider’s Guide to Singapore, especially designed for Capella Singapore’s guests.

The tour began with a visit to Singapore’s oldest temple, Thian Hock Keng temple. While at the temple, I learned how Taoists and Buddhists worship together, side-by-side.  Thian Hock Keng temple, built in 1841, is also significant because, prior to land reclamation, it sat right at the shoreline allowing Chinese sailors to pray to the gods the moment they came ashore.  As sea sojourns in the past were often perilous and fatal, sailors risked their lives to come to Singapore in search of a better life and were so overwhelmed with thanksgiving when they arrived that they donated money and goods to the temple, allowing it to continue operations until present day.

temple1s

The two gods of death, 黑白無常 (Heibai Wuchang) work together to bring people to the afterlife. Legend has it that they are easily distracted by cigarettes and alcohol which is why believers leave cigarettes by their altar!

After the temple visit, I had a personalised tour of Little India where I walked through the busy streets taking in the sights, sounds and scents.  The tour shares much about the importance of gold in Indian culture and includes a visit to several old family-run goldsmiths.  Gold, which signifies purity, prosperity and fortune, is still a form of dowry and savings among the Indian people.  But gold wasn’t the only thing that caught my eye in Little India!  I also had the opportunity to choose and wear our very own traditional Indian flower garland.

Lunch was the next stop.  I could choose between a Muslim Malay lunch and a Singaporean Chinese lunch.  The Muslim Malay food option allowed me to dine in an authentic Minang-style house.   Minangkabau, an ethnic group indigenous to Minangkabau Highlands of West Sumatra, Indonesia, has people scattered throughout the Indonesian and Malay peninsular cities and towns, including Singapore.  The Chinese option gave me the chance to eat my favourite, Bak-kuh-teh, a rich herbal soup brewed with pork bones.  This soup is popular with Chinese in Singapore and Malaysia.  I decided to go with the Muslim Malay lunch and dug into a plate filled with rich flavourful curries.

kampong_glam_s1

(Photo courtesy: Singapore Tourism Board)

After my belly was full, my walking tour through Kampong Glam and Arab Street began.   One of the most interesting experiences was being able to create my own perfume at Muslim perfumery Jamal Kazura AromaticsMinyak Attar is a natural oil based perfume derived from organic sources.  The owner, Jamal Kazura, gave me the opportunity blend scents, creating a one-of-a-kind perfume that is unique to me.   Jamal Kazura Aromatics traces its origins back to the early 1920s.

kampong_glam_s2

(Photo courtesy: Singapore Tourism Board)

After a culturally rich day, it was time to head back to Capella Singapore.  It was truly a unique experience being able to walk through history with my very own personal guide and one I would recommend to others.  

This tailor made Insider’s Guide to Singapore can be enjoyed by booking the Capella Experience package or directly through your Capella Singapore Personal Assistant.