A City of Festivals (Part 1)

The defining feature of every country is the cultures that are present there. They provide a snapshot glimpse into the stories of the country and the people who inhabit them. Singapore has plethora of cultures and each community has numerous festivals that they celebrate. There is almost never a month without at least one public holiday.

Singapore, being an extremely tolerant place, allows anyone and everyone to celebrate as they like, without any opposition. You can see people from all walks of life joining in the festivities without any hesitation.

Although Singapore is a modern metropolis, many people are very devout when it comes to festivals, especially when they are of the religious kind. The two main festivals for Muslims, for example, are Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Hari Raya Haji. Hari Raya Aidilfitri, during Ramadan time, sees Muslims observing a month long dawn-to-dusk fasting. This is one of the best times to explore Muslim festivities, and they always welcome you to take part in the celebrations. People will say hello with the traditional greeting: “Selamat Hari Raya”. The areas of Geylang Serai and Kampong Glam (once home to Malay royalty) come alive with lights, performances and street bazaars, selling everything from food to handicrafts. The traditional female attire, called “baju kurung”, is sold to hoards, and you can see almost everyone buying the gorgeously printed fabric, usually for very reasonable prices. Families dress in the same colour clothing and visit all their relatives and friends.

Hari Raya Haji, or the “Festival of Sacrifice”, is the other main Muslim festival. This is when Muslims make the pilgrimage to Mecca, in the largest annual pilgrimage in the world. The symbolic sacrifice of sheep is performed in mosques after the customary prayers, and the meat is often distributed to less fortunate families. The Sultan Mosque, or “Masjid Sultan”, is absolutely beautiful during these holy times, and is worth a visit.

In the next part of my blog, I’ll be talking about the Chinese and Indian festivals in Singapore!

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