What Holidays and Traditions are Celebrated in Singapore?
Celebrating holidays and traditions in Singapore
As a multi-cultural, multi-religious society, Singapore celebrates a diverse range of holidays and traditions. Read our guide below so that you understand the meaning behind each tradition, as well as exactly how and when they are celebrated.
When are School Holidays in Singapore?
The academic year is broken up into two semesters, each of which include two terms:
- Semester one: January to May
- Semester two: July to November.
There are four holidays throughout the school year:
- Break between terms one and two: One week, usually in mid-March
- Break between semesters one and two: One month holiday, usually from May to June
- Break between terms three and four: One week, usually in August to September
- End of school year break: One and a half months' break, from November until early January.
When are Public Holidays in Singapore?
Singapore observes several public holidays, each of which is outlined below. If a federal public holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, it is moved to the first available weekday.
New Year's Day (1 January)
New Year's Day celebrates the beginning of the new calendar year. Generally, people attend large parties on the night of 31 December, bringing in the New Year at midnight. Silosa Beach in Sentosa, Marina Bay and Clarke's Quay are all popular places to celebrate.
Chinese New Year (First Day of the New Moon Between 21 January and 20 February)
This is one of the most significant celebrations in the Singaporean year, especially for the ethnic-Chinese population. It celebrates the first day of the lunar year on the Chinese calendar. The colorful, loud celebrations can last for up to three days.
Good Friday (March to April: First Sunday After the First Full Moon After the Vernal Equinox)
With 18% of Singaporeans being Christian, Good Friday is an important holiday. Good Friday celebrates the death and subsequent resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday. Easter eggs, hot cross buns and chocolate rabbits are all gaining popularity in Singapore around Easter time.
Labour Day (1 May)
Labor Day commemorates workers and the Labor movement around the world, and especially the introduction of the eight-hour working day. In Singapore, Labor Day is also marked by sales in retail stores, so you can spend your day off looking for bargains.
Vesak Day (15th Day of the 4th Month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar)
Vesak Day celebrates the birth, enlightenment and death of Gautama Buddha. Worshipers place flowers and candles at the feet of statues, and large gatherings of people gather to sing hymns and chants dedicated to Buddha, his teaching and his followers. Buddhists also believe that committing good deeds on this day increase their merit, so young Buddhists often organize mass blood donations on this day.
Hari Raya Puasa (1st Day of Syawal in the 10th Month of the Hijrah Lunar Calendar)
Hari Raya Puasa means ‘grand day of rejoicing' in Malay. It is held to celebrate the self-restraint displayed throughout the month of Ramadan, as well as being a symbol of renewal and purification. It falls of the first day of Syawal, which is on the tenth month of the Hijrah lunar calendar. In the afternoon, families come together to feast and ask forgiveness and blessings from one another.
National Day (9 August)
National Day celebrates the date that Singapore became independent in 1965. The President gives a speech, and fireworks, skydiving, and several other public shows are put on to celebrate the island city-state. Citizens also take part in a mass pledge to the state.
Hari Raya Haji (70 Days After Ramadan)
Known as the festival of Sacrifice, this day falls 70 days after the month of Ramadan and is held in celebration of Mohammed's willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael. Goats, sheep and cows are sacrificed and the meat is sent to poorer Muslim families as a devotion to the less fortunate.
Deepavali (15th Day of the Month of Kartika in the Hindu Calendar)
Known as the Festival of Lights, this holiday celebrates the Hindu concept of ‘light conquering darkness'. A range of light displays are created around the city to celebrate the day. The Little India district on Serangoon Road is the epicenter of celebrations, as the entire district comes alive with light, celebration and the eating of traditional foods.
Christmas Day (25 December)
Christmas Day celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. However, as in America, the holiday has transcended its original religious roots. Many Singaporean Christians attend church services across Singapore, but for most people this holiday is about Christmas lights, Christmas trees, Santa Claus and families coming together to feast.
The major shopping centers of Marina Bay and Sentosa Island also have big sales on Christmas Eve. It has become something of a ritual to spend the day before Christmas shopping.
Other Singaporean Holidays and Festivals
In addition to federal public holidays, there are various other holidays, festivals and celebrations observed by the Singaporean population, each of which is outlined below.
Valentine's Day (14 February)
Much the same as Valentine's Day in America, this festival is celebrated in memory of St Valentine. Lovers exchange gifts and cards, often anonymously.
St Patrick's Day (17 March)
As in America, St Patrick's Day celebrates Irish culture. It remembers the Christian Saint Patrick, who is one of Ireland's patron saints. On this day, people often wear green to commemorate the occasion. The St Pats Day Street Fest is the biggest celebration of the day in Singapore.
Easter (March to April: First Sunday After the First Full Moon After the Vernal Equinox)
A Christian holiday, Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ following his crucifixion three days prior.
Passover (14th Day of the First Month of the Jewish Year)
Passover is a Jewish tradition, which lasts for eight days and celebrates the survivals of the Jews in Egypt. The tradition is marked with ritual dinners called Seder. While Passover is not a public holiday, the Jewish population of Singapore may choose to have this day off.
Mother's Day (Second Sunday in May)
Just like Mother's Day in America, children of all ages use this day to show their appreciation for their mother, often buying presents and gifts.
Father's Day (Third Sunday in June)
Once again, just like Father's Day in America, children of all ages use this day to show their appreciation for their father, often buying presents and gifts.