Singapore has a lively arts and entertainment scene, although you occasionally do hear complaints around the footlights about the government's censorship rules. However, the arts scene is thriving here, and you can find something to suit your tastes every night, be it a modern play, Flamenco dancing or Chinese opera.
The Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay
Known locally as the Durians because of its shape, this complex comprises 2 main halls for stage shows and music productions and two smaller theatres, a convention hall and an indoor stadium.
1 Esplanade Drive
Tel: (65) 6828 8222
Fax: (65) 6337 3633
Singapore Indoor Stadium
Entertainment and sport facility, regularly hosting concerts.
2 Stadium Walk
Tel (65) 6348 5555 (SISTIC - ticket hotline)
(65) 6344 2660 (general enquiries)Website: www.sis.gov.sg
The Singapore Repertory Theatre
Aims to promote the richness of theatre.
DBS Arts Centre
20 Merbau Road
Tel: (65) 6733 8166
Fax: (65) 6733 8167
Being multi-cultural, Singapore also celebrates many festivals, and there is something to see most months of the year.
The following are the festivals celebrated in Singapore:
Chinese New Year
This usually falls between mid-January to mid-February, and is widely celebrated in Singapore . Families gather together for the reunion dinner on the eve of the New Year and visit relatives and friends on the following 2 days. Festive foods, dragon and lion dancers, hong baos ( red packets containing money traditionally given by older family members to children and young unmarried people), all of these are part of the Chinese New Year experience which culminates in the exuberant Chingay Parade, with stilt-walkers, martial arts troupes, and lavish floats, after which you can join in a post-parade street party.
Celebrated in the Tamil month of Thai, this Hindu thanksgiving and penitence festival is celebrated between January and February. Beginning at dawn at the Sri Perumal Temple in Serangoon Road , devotees, some of whom have entered a trance and carry heavy metal kevadi (cage-like contraptions) and have driven sharp skewers through their tongues and cheeks, walk in procession to the Sri Thandayuthapani Temple along with crowds singing and chanting in support.
The self-mortification is only carried out after long and careful spiritual preparation which involves prayer and fasting.
Generally falling on or around the 5 th day in April, or the 104 th day after the winter solstice, Qing Ming (or Ching Ming) means ‘clear and bright'. This is the day to visit the graves of ancestors and place offerings such as rice and wine as will as lighting candles & joss sticks to honour the dead. The Qing Ming festival is about filial piety and gratitude to one's ancestors.
Singapore International Film Festival
Generally held in April every year, over 300 films from over 45 countries are screened at the Singapore International Film Festival. Catagories include Singapore Shorts finalists, Singapore Panorama, Asian Cinema & World Cinema.
For more details of the Singapore International Film Festival, visit their website at
Tamil New Year
The Tamil New Year is in the month of Chithirai (between April and May). Puja (morning worship) in honour of the Sun God, Suryam is held to welcome in the New Year. Surya is the remover of all darkness and gloom. Orthodox Hindus rise early for a ritual bath and elaborate worship at the family shrine. The first meal is then taken at a predetermined auspicious time. Temple visits and visits to relatives and friends follow. The Hindu Almanac for the New Year is published at this time. It lays down in detail the positions of the planets and the stars at New Year, and gives a reading of the significance of these signs, pointing to what is auspicious
Vesak Day, commemorated by the Buddhists on the full moon in May, is the most important event in their calendar, and denotes perfection and celebrates the birth, death and enlightenment (Nirvana - liberation from earthly desires and passions) of Lord Buddha. On the eve of Vesak Day, devotees are led by monks at the Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Temple (located at Bright Hill Drive ) through a three-step-one-bow ritual around the grounds. Candlelight processions, chanting and recitation of sutras (holy verses), offerings at shrines, the release of caged birds and the practice of vegetarianism are all features of Vesak, with free meals being distributed to the poor.
Singapore Arts Festival
This annual month-long arts festival in May and June is organised by the National Arts Council, and celebrates both Eastern & Western performing arts. Although there are many Singaporean artistes and productions, around 70% of the events involve international performances both big and small. In the past companies such as the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Washington Ballet have performed here.
Dragon Boat Festival
Held in June (on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month according to the Chinese calendar), the dragon boat festival commemorates the death of Qu Yuan, a poet who drowned him self in the 4 th century BC to protest at the political corruption rife in China . Despite attempts to save him by fisherman who raced to the spot where he went down, he died and bah chang – glutinous rice dumplings stuffed with delicious meet fillings and wrapped in bamboo leaves were thrown in to the water in order to distract the fish from eating his body. The Singapore Dragon Boat Festival attracts teams from Australia , The UK and many other countries and takes place in Marina Bay.
For more information on the event you can refer to the Singapore Dragon Boat Association's website:
The Great Singapore Sale
Already a shopping paradise, for 2 months out of the year Singapore is whipped into a frenzy by shops offering discounts of up to 70% - that designer bag just got more affordable!
Singapore Food Festival
What are the two great Singaporean past-times? Shopping, and eating! And to celebrate the gastronomic delights of both Singapore and the rest of the world, Singapore holds an annual month-long food fest in July. There is also entertainment, and wonderful extras such as ‘Makan Mania' in Bugis Junction where the streets are done up to resemble Singpapore in the 1960's, and each zone serves a different variety of traditional ‘street foods'.
Singapore became independent on the 9 th of August 1965, and this day is marked every year with the National Day Parade which takes place in the National Stadium.
Festival of the Hungry Ghost (Yu Lan Jie)
Usually falling around mid-August to some time in September, the Festival of the Hungry Ghost (also known as the Feast of the Hungry Ghost) is observed by Taoist Chinese who believe that at this time of year the gates of hell are opened and souls, or ghosts, of the departed wander the earth. In order to appease and honour these spirits, people burn money, houses, cars and clothes (all made out of paper) as well as offering food. Entertainment is also provided for the spirits in the form of Chinese operas (wayangs) in open grounds in neighbourhoods. After the ghosts have had their fill of the food that has been offered (being spirits they only eat the ‘soul' of the food), it is then eaten at lavish feasts by the celebrants.
Also known as the Mooncake Festival, Moon Festival or Lantern Festival), this Chinese festival falls on the Autumn Equinox. There are a few legends associated with this celebration, the most famous of which is Chang'e and her flight to the moon. It is also in celebration of the overthrow of the Mongol Dynasty during the 14 th century. Brightly coloured lanterns are paraded by children to mark the joyous event in history.
During this time you can find many varieties of mooncakes available, mostly sweet and some savoury. The most famous mooncakes are filled with lotus seed or red bean paste and have whole salted egg yolks in them. You can get variations which are mixed with durian or have a green tea flavour, but what they all have in common is that they signify unity and a cycle completed – traditionally the end of the farming year and an abundant summer harvest.
Pilgrimage to Kusu Island
Usually falling in late-October, this month-long festival is undertaken by Taoist Chinese who take the ferry to Kusu Island (which is to the south of Singapore) in order to make offerings at the Tua Pek Kong Temple and at a Malay shrine.
Legend has it that a turtle (kusu is Malay for turtle) transformed itself into an island so that two shipwrecked sailors, one Chinese and one Malay, could be saved from drowning.
Navarathri is Tamil for ‘nine nights', and for nine days every October there is traditional Indian music and dancing in every Hindu temple. During this time the devotee spends 3 days each worshipping the forms forms of Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati, who are different manifestations of Devi, (also known as Shakti or divine energy) On the tenth day, Vijayadashami ( the tenth day of victory ) the festival usually culminates with a procession.
The fire-walking ceremony takes place some time in October and November every year. As with Thaipusam, devotees are led by a priest from the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple to the Sri Mariamman Temple . The priest then walks on a bed of burning coal, after which male devotees sprint barefoot across the coals without apparent injury to their feet.
Thimithi is performed in honour of Draupadi, who was lost along with other ‘property' by her husband in a game of dice. Duryodhana, who won her, ordered her to strip naked in public so that she would be humiliated. Draupadi appealed to Lord Krishna, who saved her. To prove her purity she walked barefoot across hot coals.
Deepavali is the Festival of Lights, and is a time of much rejoicing for Hindus and Sikhs as it symbolises the conquest of good over evil, light over darkness. Usually taking place in October or November, one of its many roots is in the legendary slaying by Lord Krishna of an oppressive ruler named Narakasura.
The souls of departed relatives are believed to descend to earth at this time, there is a ceremonial lighting of oil lamps in Little India which are placed in rows to guide these souls on their return journey to the next world.
Christmas is widely celebrated, although people from the further up the Northern Hemisphere sometimes find it a bit strange to be celebrating this in the tropical climate of Singapore . Orchard Road and shopping centres and hotels are lit up and there are dazzling displays everywhere, everyone trying to out-do each other and win the ‘Best Decorated Building' award.
Hari Raya Puasa
Hari Raya Puasa is celebrated by Muslims to mark the end of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting from sunrise to sunset and alms-giving. The celebrations begin with the sighting of the new moon on the first day of the10th month of the Islamic calendar. Muslims usually attend mosque for prayers in the morning and then gather with family and friends for a feast of traditional food.
Hari Raya Puasa signifies openness of mind and heart to the Muslims, and non-Muslims are often invited to join in the festivities. However, anyone can soak in the atmostphere by going to the Malay distict of Geylang, where you will find outdoor markets selling all kinds of traditional delicacies. You may also like to check out the food stalls in Bussorah Street .
Hari Raya Haji
This Muslim holiday is celebrated one day after pilgrims on their Haj converge upon Mecca.