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Over the next few weeks thousands of worshipers will make offerings and pray for a favorable Chinese New Year. Dragons and lions are prominent characters in Chinese mythology; its roots originating in ancient China when Nien, a mythical beast which tormented villagers was discovered to be afraid of the colour red.
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The Chinese in Singapore believe that the lion brings forth good fortune. Legend has it that a monstrous creature, the Nien, would destroy the fields, crops and animal of farmers each year on the eve of Chinese New Year.
Their ingenious plan was followed with success and henceforth, the lion dance was performed annually to celebrate it. The best time and place to witness lion dance performances is on the eve of Chinese New Year in Chinatown, where you can also enjoy the Chinatown Street Light Up at the same time. Singapore bursts with all sorts of activities and events during Chinese New Year each year.
The centrepiece of the festivities is the Chingay Parade, a grand carnival-like street parade with dazzling floats, thrilling spectacles like fire-eaters, magicians and sizzling dance acts. However, to accommodate more spectators, it is held on the expansive grounds of the Formula One Pit Building alongside the Marina waterfront.
Held on the Marina Bay Floating Platform and the Esplanade Waterfront Promenade in mid-February, the vicinity comes alive with the throbbing beat of lively street performances, shopping and games stalls, lanterns and fireworks — a crowd favourite during Chinese New Year. Nearby at the Esplanade, the annual Huayi Festival, which also happens in February, showcases traditional and contemporary Chinese arts in a variety of genres like theatre, opera and music, and includes visual installations by renowned Chinese artists from all over the world.
The parade has its origins in China, where processions of a similar ilk were held for two weeks after the Lunar New Year to welcome the season of spring. People from all walks of life participate in the Chingay, as long as they have something to celebrate and share.
Join in as Singaporeans and visitors alike party up and down the streets during the festival as a symbolic gesture of their anticipation of the Spring bloom. In recent years, the festival has evolved with Asian and global influences, with approximately 2, performers from various clubs, schools and institutions gyrating to Samba music — and has given the parade a growing reputation as the Mardi Gras of the East — in a myriad of glittering, colourful costumes.
Sinceexotic groups from various countries like Ghana, Brazil and Slovenia have also made their debut in the parade, enthralling tourists and Singaporeans, reflecting a true cosmopolitan society.
Singapore's Chinatown presents the perfect image of a city in the grip of festivities for the Chinese lunar Year of the Rat. But duck into a back street travel agent and a different picture emerges.
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I only see them once a year during Chinese New Year -- where's the connection there? I'd rather spend time with people I'm closer to. Some youngsters are just going visiting to receive the ang pao," he said, referring to the red paper envelopes of money given by relatives. Travel agent after travel agent confirms the trend. In what some interpret as evidence of the "westernization" of younger generations, research from the National University of Singapore NUS confirms young people are less likely to celebrate Chinese festivals than older people.
Young Singaporeans risk becoming culturally bankrupt, as they do not make the effort to understand or follow their traditions, said security officer Edward Chua, Opting out of cultural rituals to instead travel to hotspots such as Bangkok, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Taiwan is the Year of the Rat's hot ticket trend, despite seasonal price hikes. Not all observers see this manifestation of the city's gaping generation gap as a problem.
But left-behind older generations faced with empty places at the dinner table find it hard to see the upside.
A dance arena will be created "for youths to have a taste of partying in the heart of the CITY right after the fanfare," said the organizers, who hope to draw revelers. While there are various legends that inspire this festival, the common tale is about how Narakasura won the favor of God and was blessed with the rule of a kingdom.
He ruled his kingdom with tyranny, which led his subjects to appeal to Lord Sri Krishna, the divine ruler of Madura, for help.
To celebrate his victory and to welcome Lord Krishna, the people lit lamps, and to this day, Hindus mark the victory of Lord Krishna over King Narakasura by lighting oil lamps. New clothes are worn during Deepavali and sweets and snacks are shared. Some Indian communities also begin the financial year on Deepavali for auspicious reasons.
A traditional way to celebrate Deepavali in Singapore is to have your hands painted with henna art. Henna is a flowering plant used to dye skin, hair, fingernails and even leather and wool. These temporary tattoos are often done for free by local artists. During Deepavali, the streets of Little India are artfully decorated and lit up in bright festive colours, transforming it with an explosion of vibrant, colourful arches and lights. The festive stalls are decorated with wares such as fragrant flowers, garlands used during prayers, traditional oil lamps and beautiful Saris with intricate brocade patterns and glittering gems.
Colourful Indian outfits, intricate costume jewellery and traditional arts and craft are also on sale.
Indian delicacies can also be found in abundance during this period. If you want to bask in the richness of the Indian culture, sit by any of the coffee shops along Little India and order a teh tarik frothy milk tea. Watch as the crowds fill the streets and the stalls bustle with business.
Come see this historically rich enclave transform into the heart of Deepavali. Vesak Day in Singapore Vesak Day is the most significant day of the year in the Buddhist calendar and is celebrated by Buddhists the world over. The day commemorates the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha and is a day of immense joy, peace and reflection. Devotees often bring simple offerings of flowers, candles and joss-sticks to lay at the feet of their spiritual teacher.
These symbolic offerings remind followers that life too, is subject to decay and destruction when the offering burns out or wilts away. Buddhists believe that performing good deeds on Vesak Day will multiply merit many times over. Buddhist youth sometimes organise mass blood donations at hospitals, while general rites and rituals practiced on Vesak Day include chanting of mantras; releasing of caged birds and animals; having vegetarian meals; and "bathing" a Buddha statue, a reference to the legend of the child Buddha being showered with the waters of nine dragons soon after birth.
These acts of generosity observed by the Buddhist temples are also known as Dana. Most statues of the Lord Buddha are illuminated on Vesak Day, and the celebrations conclude with a candlelight procession through the streets. The Buddhist community in Singapore is made up of various sectors, each of them offering variant ways of celebrating the occasion — The Mahayana or "Greater Way" constitutes mainly Chinese Singaporeans and form the majority of Buddhists here, while the Mahayana strain of Buddhism arrived on these shores in through individual missionaries from China's southern province.
The central pillar of Mahayana Buddhism is that Nirvana can be obtained not just through self-perseverance but also through the help of bodhisattvas or "enlightened ones". One such bodhisattva highly regarded in Singapore is Guanyin, the "Goddess of Mercy".
Mahayana Buddhist temples in Singapore like the Phor Kark See Temple on Bright Hill Road, practise the "three-step, one-bow" ritual on Vesak Day, where devotees take steps on both knees, bowing at every third step as they pray for world peace, personal blessings and repentance.
The exhausting two-hour procession actually begins 24 hours before, when many would reserve a place in the procession, sometimes with only a small tissue packet.
Meanwhile another main variant of Buddhism is Theravada Buddhism, with a focus on seeking one's own path to salvation. You can also soak in the spirit of the Vesak Day celebrations at The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, a four-storey spiritual centre in the heart of Chinatown.
It is architecturally inspired by the harmonious combination of the Buddhist mandala and the art culture of Buddhism in the Tang dynasty. Pongal in Singapore The Pongal Festival, or Sankaranthi, was originally held in celebration of a good harvest in South India, where farming is the main form of livelihood. Here in Singapore, the Pongal Festival welcomes the beginning of the 10th Tamil month, called Thai, which falls in mid-January each year. It is celebrated in the form of a thanksgiving and usually lasts four days.
Pongal literally means to boil over and hence the pot of rice is allowed to boil over as a sign of prosperity. On the second day, Pongal is celebrated. Hindu homes start the day with the preparation of pongal sweet sticky rice where milk, rice and sugar are boiled together cooked in a new pot that is presented as an offering to the Gods in return for their blessings.
On this same day, house visits are made and greetings are exchanged. The third day, Mattu Pongal, is dedicated towards honouring the cattle, for ploughing the fields and for the milk they provide.
On this day the cattle are bathed, their horns painted and multi-coloured beads, tinkling bells and flower garlands are tied around their necks. The fourth day, Kaanum Pongal, is for younger members of the family to pay respect to their elders.
On these days, Pongal rice is also prepared at all Hindu temples and special prayers are conducted. In Little India, visitors can witness certain significant rituals and customs such as the honouring of the cattle and the Mass Pongal, which consists of a cooking competition among 20 families as part of a nine-day Pongal Festival. During this joyous festival, Campbell Lane, in front of Serangoon Rood, is usually transformed into a pedestrian-only mini village.
You can browse the myriad of stalls and get your hands on unique souvenirs. Culture vultures can also experience the daily Pongal themed cultural performances taking place. Mid-Autumn Festival in Singapore Most cultures have harvest festivals, and the Chinese are no exception. Based on Chinese legend and traditions brought to Singapore by our ancestors, the Mid-Autumn Festival is now celebrated yearly in August or September, to commemorate the selfless act of Chang' e, the wife of a merciless ruler.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is also fondly known as the Lantern or Mooncake Festival because of the festivities that surround the occasion. I'd never been on a dating site, and little did I know that it would change my life forever. I first met my wife Hazel on Lovestruck when she winked at me. She seemed just my type, so we exchanged a few messages.
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