post wp-admin edit 15671

A City of Festivals (Part 2)

Previously, I talked about the Muslim festivals that are celebrated in Singapore.

Chinese people also celebrate various festivals throughout the year, the most notable being the Chinese New Year. The 15-day long festival is celebrated worldwide, with China seeing the largest annual migration in the world during this time as thousands travel back to their hometowns. “Gong Xi Fa Cai” is the traditional way to say “Happy Chinese New Year”. They spring clean their houses to ‘sweep away’ any ill fortune, and children are gifted “hong baos”, which are little red packets with some money in them. Red is said to ward off evil, and it is a symbol of good luck and prosperity.

Chinatown, along with the rest of Singapore, actually, is lit up with lanterns and lights. The traditional “lion dance” is performed island-wide, along with other shows like fire-eating and female dance troupe performances. Dragon and lion dances are common at this time of year as they are important symbols in Chinese folklore.

The Chinese harvest festival is called the “Mid-Autumn Festival”, and is also known as the Lantern or Mooncake festival because of the festivities that occur at this time of year. Mooncakes are thick pastry dough filled with traditional ingredients like lotus, red bean, and more. The “Hungry Ghost Festival” is also celebrated around the same time. This is when the Chinese pay respect to their dead. It is said that at this time, the ‘Gates of Hell’ are opened and the spirits are free to roam around the earth. The locals burn incense sticks, candles, and joss paper in big burning bins that are found island-wide all around the year. They also present their offerings in the form of food, made especially for the festival. Numerous shows are performed in the evenings, as Chinese people believe in entertaining their spirits, and these usually depict tales of divine gods and goddesses. Everyone is welcome to watch these shows, as long as you don’t sit in the first row, which is reserved for the ‘special guests’.

The most famous Buddhist festival is Vesak Day, where they congregate at temples before sunrise for the ceremony. The Buddhist flag is hoisted and hymns are sung. Devotees bring simple offerings of incense sticks, flowers and candles. They believe in performing good deeds on Vesak day, so they usually organize events like mass blood donations at hospitals. The Buddha statues in temple are illuminated with hundreds of lights, and there are candlelight processions on the streets.

One of the sects of Buddhism, called Mahayana Buddhism, practices something called the “three-step, one-bow” ritual on Vesak day. Devotees take three steps on their knees, and bow once, praying for world peace, personal blessings and repentance. They do this around the whole temple. One of the best places to observe Vesak day is at the “Lian Shan Shuang Lin Temple”. I would recommend visiting both Buddhist and Chinese temples not only during festival times, but also during the rest of the year, as they are stunning in terms of architecture and the sense of peace which you feel when you step inside. Lighting an incense stick at these temples is one of my favourite things to do, because the smell from them is absolutely divine, and kneeling down and saying a prayer of any sort, even if you are not religious, just brings you a lot of peace.



My name is Nikki and I currently study in Singapore.  I come from Bangalore, India while my parents come from two different Indian states, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, and I have lived in various cities like Delhi and Bombay.  Other than my academics, I have been learning Bharatanatyam, which is a form of classical Indian dance, for the past 10 years now.  I also love to read and am a volunteer at the Singapore National Library.  I have a great attraction towards these projects due to my passion to help people, and I find that these make me a more compassionate person, as well as help me to see the reality of the world. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Christmas bonsai plant

Que Sera, Sera

While “uncertainties” is not the favourite word for anyone, it is a fact of life. With so many festivals despite the chilly winter, perhaps our ancestors are trying to pass down some wisdom to us: to appreciate life as it gives and make the best of it as we can.
TCG social media

The Human Library: Real People With Real Stories

Before the internet, social media, and mobile devices took over our world, many of us spent our growing up days frequenting the libraries in search of knowledge. I love going to the libraries, so much so that I even volunteered to be a school librarian during my teenage years. A library to me is the…
TCG buildings

The Big Idea in Innovation

Chang’an (长安), Luoyang (洛阳), Nalanda, Alexandria, Athens, Rome, Paris, London, L.A., cities of the ancient and our modern worlds. What do they have in common? They either were or are centres where people gathered to exchange goods and ideas. Governors and residents of these cities integrate and assimilate new cultures and customs into their local…
TCG food

Discovering Stories Behind New Dishes

A delicious meal with good company is one of my favourite moments in life. Growing up in South East Asia, I was fortunate to have been introduced to a wide variety of cuisines, notably Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Western. Later, as I explore the larger world around me, discovering new cuisines have become part of…

Super DEI Heroes

Thanks to live-streaming, I had the opportunity to watch Joe Hisaishi’s (久石譲) World Dream concert in Tokyo. Hisaishi is a Japanese composer and musical director known for his works with his friend, Hayao Miyazaki’s (宮崎駿) on Studio Ghibli’s animated films (e.g., Spirited Away, My Neighbour Totoro, etc.) To many, Hisaishi is a modern-day legend.
Map - Greenland and Africa

Pondering on Our Own Truths

Since young, I was always drawn to ancient maps. When I was living in London during my undergraduate days, I enjoyed looking for old maps in the antique shops along King’s Road. Today, I have two world maps on my walls reminding me of my dream to travel the world. Now, what if I were…

What We Can Learn from Kendo – “The Way of the Sword”

Few knew I’d practiced Kendo (劍道) during a period of my life. It all started with a Manga (Japanese comics) I read when I was little during a school holiday. I was intrigued by the self-discipline of this martial art and the tenacity of the main character. Years later, when I was working and living…