Main Public Holidays Celebrated in Singapore
Singapore is known for its multicultural and religiously diverse society. Thus, many different public holidays are celebrated here. Other than religious and cultural celebrations, Singapore also celebrates National Day on August 9 every year. This public holiday commemorates Singapore’s independence, which it received on August 9, 1965.
Chinese New Year
Most Singaporeans are of Chinese descent. Therefore, Chinese New Year is the most important public holiday of the year. Evidence of this is the fact that it is the are two-day public holidays in the country. It may take place at any time between January 21 and February 20. This festival marks the start of the new year according to the lunar calendar. Red usually symbolizes prosperity and is used in decorations and traditional wear. Those who are in Singapore at this time should visit Chinatown, where the buzzing streets, lively stalls, and stunning decorations set the tone for this festive occasion.
Hari Raya Aidilfitri
Hari Raya Aidilfitri, also known as Hari Raya Puasa or Eid al-Fitr, is celebrated by Singapore’s Muslim community. This day marks the end of Ramadan, during which Muslims fast during daylight hours. Hari Raya Aidilfitri is often celebrated extravagantly. During celebrations, local delicacies will be prepared and those who celebrate the holiday will do so with direct family members, more distant relatives, and friends.
Singapore National Day
National Day is one of the most important events in Singapore. This is because it celebrates the country’s independence. This took place on August 9, 1965, when Singapore seceded from Malaysia. There will often be events linked to National Day that takes place during the days leading up to the holiday itself. On National Day, the whole country’s patriotism and passion for the country can be seen. The national flag will be displayed all over the country. There will also be festive sales, fireworks, activities, spectacular performances, and of course, the National Day Parade.
Hari Raya Haji
Hari Raya Haji is also known as Hari Raya Qurban or Eid al-Adha. The literal meaning of this holiday’s title is the “Festival of the Sacrifice”. The day is usually spent by praying at the mosque as well as and sharing one’s wealth with the less privileged. Such activities are what give this holiday its name. In certain areas of Singapore, there will also be some bazaars set up. They sell products and goods related to the festival.
Deepavali is celebrated by the Hindu community of Singapore. It is the most important festival that they celebrate. Deepavali is also known as the “Festival of Lights”. This is because the day symbolizes the triumph of light over darkness, which in turn is a metaphor for the victory of good over evil. Singapore’s Little India is an excellent place to visit during Deepavali. During this time, the streets there are covered with colorful, dazzling lights and bright, festive decorations. These make it a place to take memorable pictures and take in the remarkable sights.
Christmas is the last public holiday of the year. It is an event full of joy and is one of the most awaited celebrations. Both Christians, who celebrate it, and non-Christians alike look forward to this day. Singapore’s world-famous Orchard Road is a major tourist destination during this time. This is because of the stunning decorations and lights which are put up every year.
History of Public Holidays in Singapore
Given the fact that there are already many public holidays in Singapore, it may be somewhat surprising to learn that many years ago, Singapore had even more public holidays. Until 1968, Singapore celebrated six additional public holidays. All six were religious. Two were celebrated by Muslims, one by Hindus, and three by Christians. The two Islamic holidays were the Birthday of Prophet Muhammad and the second day of the Hari Raya Aidilfitri holiday. The one Hindu holiday was Thaipusam, while the three Christian holidays were Holy Saturday, Easter Monday, and Boxing Day.
In 1968, the Ministry of Manpower decided to remove these six days from the list of official public holidays in Singapore. This decision was made to improve the country’s business competitiveness, reduce the business costs incurred by Singapore companies, and mitigate the impact brought about by statutory leave. The public holidays that were retained were selected after a consultation between the Singaporean government and various religious and community leaders across the country.
Public Holidays and Singapore Elections
Should there be a general or presidential election held in Singapore, Polling Day will be a public holiday. This is the government’s way of encouraging the Singaporean population to exercise their duties to the country by casting their vote.
The laws that mandate public holidays on Polling Days are Section 17 of the Presidential Elections Act and Section 35 of the Parliamentary Elections Act. These laws, however, do not include by-elections. According to the Employment Act, employees who are not required to work on that day may either receive one day off in lieu of one days’ worth of their usual pay.
How Singapore’s Public Holidays Compare to Those of Its Neighbors
In this section, Singapore’s public holidays will be compared to those of four of its Southeast Asian neighbors; namely, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. This is because a comparison would give a greater perspective on where the Singaporean government stands regionally about public holidays.
The first and important factor to consider is the number of public holidays celebrated in each country. As has been mentioned, Singapore has 11 days of the year designated as national public holidays. This figure is similar to Malaysia and the Philippines’ 12 and is the same as Vietnam’s 11. Indonesia, with 16, is the outlier among this group. However, it should also be noted that in Indonesia, the province of Bali is given extra public holidays, as the people living there are the only ones in the country that celebrate those holidays. Similarly, in Malaysia, each state government grants the citizens of the state extra public holidays which only pertain to that state.
Another area that needs to be looked at is what public holidays are celebrated by each country. All five countries celebrate Labor Day as a nationwide public holiday. All five also celebrate National Day, but all are obviously on different days. New Year’s Day is common to all the countries as well, but it is not a nationwide public holiday in Malaysia; it is observed by most, but not all, states of the country.
The differences in public holidays reveal subtle yet important cultural differences between the countries of Southeast Asia. All the countries except the Philippines celebrate the Lunar New Year because those which do so have large Chinese communities. Muslim-majority Indonesia and Malaysia have Hari Raya Aidilfitri as a two-day public holiday; in Muslim-minority Singapore and the Philippines, it is a standard public holiday. Indonesia and Malaysia also designate certain other Islamic festivals as public holidays which their neighbors do not. The same is true of the Philippines and certain Christian festivals. On the other hand, the atheistic nation of Vietnam does not have any religiously oriented public holidays. All public holidays there are patriotic or cultural. As Malaysia is the only monarchy among the countries, some of its public holidays are linked to royalty.
In general, public holidays in Singapore have more similarities to those of its neighbors than differences. Having said that, these differences are also important and should not be taken lightly. This is because they help give Singapore its unique culture and character.
What Can Be Learned About Singapore Through Its Public Holidays
Public holidays reflect the ethos and values of a country in many ways. This is also true of Singapore. For example, it is worth noting that four different religions are represented in the country’s public holidays. This shows that the Singaporean government is one that values freedom of religion. The fact that Chinese New Year is Singapore’s only two-day public holiday is also interesting. This proves that although Singapore is a cosmopolitan and multicultural nation, it has not forgotten where most of its cultural heritage lies. Even the fact that Singapore once scrapped six public holidays deserves a mention. This course of action taken by the Singaporean government of that era shows that the Singaporean government is willing to make unpopular decisions if they will go on to benefit the nation in the long run.
Singapore has carved out a unique place for itself in the world today. One way it has done so has been by promoting its deep cultural heritage. Its public holidays, which are celebrated by the people there with great joy and abandon, are evidence of this fact.