Festivals & Faiths
Singapore is often described as a melting pot of cultural backgrounds. and nothing testifies to this more than the wide array of festivals which celebrate many of its official 10 religions. In fact a 2014 analysis found Singapore to be the world's most religiously diverse nation. Great care is taken to ensure that an equal number public holidays are given for the most followed of these, i.e. Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism & Islam.
Chinese New Year
Or the Spring Festival or the Lunar New Year is familiar to people the world over with its many rituals. A 15 days long celebration starts on the New Moon and ends with the Full Moon. Each year is attributed to one of 12 animals and many decorations in that animal’s image can be seen decorating the streets of Chinatown.
Qing Ming also known as Tomb Sweeping is a festival where families visit their relatives’ graves to give them a“Spring clean” & ensure they are in good repair.
Christianity was brought to Asia by a variety of European missionaries and a large percentage of Singapore’s population is Christian (as of 2015, approximately 19%). Easter is the most important festival in the Christian calendar & our annual walking tour takes us around the main - beautifully restored - downtown churches to see how it is celebrated.
The fasting month of Ramadan is one of the 5 Pillars of Islam which all Muslims aim to adhere to. From sunrise to sunset no food or drink may be consumed, but in the evenings the Muslim areas of Singapore take on a very different, almost festive, atmosphere with food stalls of all descriptions providing delicious ways to break ones fast.
This is a daytime tour exploring the main Malay & Muslim area of Kampong Glam, its history and traditions with particular emphasis on those for Ramadan.
In the Malay Muslim world there are 2 Hari Rayas (the name means ””Important Day) - Hari Raya Haji which celebrates the Haj or pilgrimage season, and Hari Raya Puasa which signifies the end of Ramadan.
Our tour will explore the fun filled customs which signify the celebrations surrounding the end of a month of austerity.
The late year festival of lights is a colorful celebration commemorating the triumph of light over darkness, or good over evil as exemplified in the Indian classic story, the Ramayana. During this period, the streets of Little India are festooned with lights, special markets are set up and people of all backgrounds enjoy the fun associated with new clothes, visits to family & heaps of delicious foods.
From the glitzy decorations of Orchard Road’s shopping area to the beautifully decorated churches, Christmas is a widely celebrated festival in Singapore. To create the wintry feel associated with this time of the year, we even have regular (as in hourly!) snowfalls at some of the shopping malls.
Temples, Tiles & More
Telok Ayer (Water Bay in Malay) Street is also dubbed “Harmony Street”for its mix of religious establishments – Buddhist/Taoist, Muslim, Hindu & Christian, and was originally right on the water’s edge prior to early land reclamation. These places of worship were therefore strategically located for people to pray for, and give thanks for, safe passage.
Feng Shui Tour
For all its modern Westen appearance, Singapore is still a deeply Asian city in many ways and the practice of Feng Shui (which literally translates as "wind-water" in English), or geomancy, is often used to determine the design & location of commercial buildings as well as in the home. It is a essentially a Chinese philosophical system of harmonizing everyone with the surrounding environment, and is closely linked to Taoism.
Our tour will examine the way in which this belief system has influenced architecture.
Many people wonder what takes place in a certain elegant & distinctive building in Coleman Street; once they discover it's the Freemasons Hall in which many lodges meet they're not necessarily much the wiser!
In fact freemasonry has been called many things (some untrue and unflattering) but, in short, it describes itself is a system of learning designed to make good men better men.
Freemasonry in Singapore officially began here in 1845 and the Hall was constructed in 1879.
Distinctive features set the Sikh community apart but this small yet vibrant community has been an integral part of Singapore’s history since 1819. Famed as fierce warriors, Sikh men have traditionally held positions in the police force and as security guards; they are even spotted guarding the graves of some of Singapore’s Chinese & Peranakan founding fathers.