Singapore encomposing multi-cultural diversity celebrates many festivals throughout the year. All of it with its distinct flavour and colour.

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Chinese New Year/Lunar New Year and Chingay Parade

The date of the Lunar New Year (Chinese New Year) is determined by the lunar calendar and it often falls in either January or February each year. To prepare for the arrival of this day, Chinatown is usually filled with stores selling New Year gifts, decorations and gift hampers.

Being a major event on the Chinese calendar, the Chinese residents celebrate this occasion in stylish red or gold colours. Spring cleaning for this festive season is essential to most Chinese and it is a common sight to see red pieces of paper with Chinese calligraphy bearing good wishes placed onto doors and walls. Lasting for 15 days, the eve and first two days are public holidays in Singapore. The distribution of Hong Bao (red packets containing money) by parents and relatives to unmarried children is a common practice during this festive season.

Amidst the celebration for the Lunar New Year, a Chingay Parade is held to reflect the cosmopolitan vitality of the country. Chingay, which basically means the art of masquerading, has evolved into a national event featuring floats and performances by both local and foreign groups. This year it even had a snow motif to the event, making it simply extraordinary. Look out for this event in 2014.

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Hungry Ghost Festival

The seventh month of the lunar calendar is when the hungry ghost festival is celebrated. This event is a traditional Chinese festival celebrated worldwide by Chinese people and it involves the offering of food and burning of offerings (i.e., incense and papier-mâché material items such as clothes, gold, cars and houses) as a form of ancestor worship with the meaning of extending filial piety from descendants to their ancestors even after their deaths.

These offerings can be seen along roadsides and on open grounds as a means of appeasing and respecting the departed. In some areas of Singapore, you may even chance upon Wayangs (Chinese operas) which are staged to entertain the wandering spirits during this festival. This festival stretches to 15 days. This is not a a public holiday.

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Mid-Autumn Festival

The 15th day of the eighth lunar month marks the day when the full moon shines brightly and families and friends gather under the moonlit sky to savour mooncakes (traditional food of this festival), pomelos and pots of Chinese tea. Mooncakes come in a variety of sweet and savoury fillings. This is not given a public holidat too.

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Hari Raya Aidilfitri

Marking the end of Ramadan (which is a month long period where fasting takes place from sunrise to sunset) is the biggest event of the Muslim calendar. The Hari Raya Aidilfitri festivities take centre stage in Geylang Serai and Kampong Glam and it is worth visiting these areas during this time to take in the joyous nature of the Muslim celebrants.

This is a time where you will see Malay families dressed up in their best traditional outfit to mark this special occasion. Similar to the Chinese during Chinese New Year, the Malays also have the tradition of giving ang pao but on this occasion it is known as duit raya and they are given in green packets.

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Hari Raya Haji

Approximately 70 days after the celebrations of Hari Raya Aidilfitri, comes the ancient Muslim festival Hari Raya Haji (or also known as the “Festival of Sacrifice”). This is a time of sacrifice that is celebrated over three days by Muslims all over the world.

The festival starts off with prayers by the male volunteers and a sacrifice of sheep, goats and cows to symbolize Phophet Ibrahim’s readiness to sacrifice his own flesh and blood.

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Deepavali

This is a festival when Little India is filled with lights, music, scents, arts and performances. Known also as the “Festival of lights”, it is an occasion of rejoice for both Hindus and Sikhs. It marks the beginning of a New Year for certain North Indians, while some believe that the departed souls of relatives will descend during this time and rows of tiny oil lamps are used to guide them on a journey to the next world.

During this festival, new clothes are worn, and vibrant and colourful lights, festive bazaars and cultural activities enliven the streets of Little India. At this time, you will be able to feast on Indian delicacies and enjoy cultural heritage, crafts and more in this small district of Singapore.

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Vesak Day

This festival is celebrated on the fifteen day of the fourth lunar month. This Buddhist celebration involves chantings, recitations and offerings at shrines and temples. Symbolizing perfection and commemorating the birth of enlightenment and nirvana of the Lord Buddha, temples are decorated with flags, lights, and flowers, and vegetarian meals are served.

You can soak yourself in the spirit during Vesak Day celebrations at various temples around Singapore, with the biggest activities taking place at The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, located in the heart of Chinatown.

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Christmas

Despite not experiencing the four northern hemisphere seasons, Singaporeans celebrate Christmas in a similar way to Western countries. Seasonal decorations light-up the entire shopping strip of Orchard Road and choirs sing carols and street performers add to the festive fun.

This is a time where you can do your Christmas shopping without the fear of a snow storm. Every nook and corner will be filled with great deals from shopping to dining options to satisfy all needs in the season of giving.

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