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Sunday, 31 August 2008

Craving culture? Visit Singapore for 3 fantastic festivals in 1 city


From September until November visitors to Singapore will be captivated by not one, but three colourful cultural festivals celebrating the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, the Indian celebration of Deepavali, and the Malay festivities of Hari Raya.

With enchanting street “light-ups”, fabulous feasts, live music, outdoor performances and plenty of family fun, planning a trip to Singapore to coincide with these festivities guarantees a truly enriching experience of the Lion City’s unique ethnic diversity and local customs.

“The Mid-Autumn Festival, Deepavali and Hari Raya celebrations showcase beautifully the way in which people of different cultural and religious backgrounds can live side by side harmoniously in modern Singapore,” said Mr Kevin Leong, Regional Director, Singapore Tourism Board, “Being Singaporean means you can enjoy and celebrate these special occasions with your friends, thereby having a better understanding and respect, for a different culture to your own. It’s part of what makes Singapore special.”

This year’s Mid Autumn Festival will take place from 31 August – 30 September, with the action stretching from Chinatown to the Singapore River. While the 15th day of the 8th lunar month is the official festival date, the local Chinese community celebrates family unity throughout the entire month.

The Festival is linked to many legends but celebrations today mean walking through streets beautifully illuminated by fairy lights and lanterns, bartering at the vibrant street markets and sampling mooncakes, be they the traditional ones filled with lotus seed paste, or the modern ones flavoured with chocolate or ice-cream.

Key highlights include: The ‘Lantern Fantasy’ with the theme ‘F8 – Kitty Go Races’ will showcase worldwide favourite Hello Kitty and friends participating in sporting races. There will also be a program of dedicated Chinese cultural events, family activities, children’s entertainment and performing troops.

A free walking tour begins at the Chinatown Heritage Centre and runs daily in the evenings between August 31 and September 14. Grab a lantern and learn about the history, customs, myths and stories of the Mid-Autumn Festival on this guided tour of Chinatown’s streets.

The Hari Raya Light-Up & Celebrations will spice up Singapore’s Malay enclave between August 24 and October 12. One of the calendar’s most significant festivals for Muslims, the festival marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. The historic Kampong Glam district, the original seat of Malay royalty, and the streets of Geylang Serai will be the centre of the celebrations hosting bustling bazaars, stage shows, musical performances and a shimmering light-up display.

Key highlights include: Free daily free walking tours are available in September departing in the afternoon from the Sultan Mosque. Discover how Muslims prepare for and celebrate Hari Raya and explore the significant sites of the vivid Kampong Glam quarter as the local Muslim community celebrates the breaking of fasting.

Otherwise known as the ‘Festival of Lights’, Deepavali celebrations will run from September 20 until November 2. The most important festival for Hindus, it commemorates the triumph of good over evil, and light over darkness by lighting the streets and temples of Little India with streamers and twinkling lights. Serangoon Road and the Sri Veeramakaliamman, Sri Vadapathira Kaliamman and Sri Srinivasa Permual temples are particularly dazzling.

You’ll hardly believe you’re not in Mumbai when you trip down Campbell Lane, which will be packed with stalls overflowing with stunning saris, tinkling jewellery, local arts and crafts and of course, fragrant herbs and spices sure to make any Indian dish a success.

Key highlights include: Thimithi (fire-walking) Festival in Sri Mariamman Temple (October 20) when, in a display of breathtaking devotion and faith, Hindus walk bare-footed across a four-metre bed of burning hot coals to commemorate the Goddess Draupadi. The Deepavali Street Parade (24 October) is the largest most spectacular arts event in Little India and a must-see gala featuring music, dance and cultural acts along Race Course Road. The Deepavali Bazaar (Deepavali Festival Village, Campbell Lane, 20 September - 26 October) and Deepavali Trade Fair (Serangoon Rd from 28 September to 26 October) are a must for Indian artefacts, clothing, jewellery and fabulous food.

Free nightly walking tours will also take place from September 20 – October 26. Step out from the InnCrowd Backpacker’s Hostel to take in the colourful arches and magnificent temples while being entertained by mystical stories of Indian folklore.

To make sure you don’t miss out on any of the action, Creative Holidays is offering a fantastic package starting from $1,472* ex Perth, $1,702*ex Melbourne, $1,713*ex Sydney, $1,715*ex Adelaide and $1,720*ex Brisbane. Price includes return economy class airfares and 4 night’s accommodation at the Golden Landmark Hotel. To book contact Jetset on 136 383 or Travelworld on 131 435.

For further information about Singapore, log onto www.visitsingapore.com or contact the Singapore Tourism Board on (02) 9290 2888.

* Conditions and seasonal surcharges may apply.

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