Deepavali Celebration in Singapore: Outsider's Guide to the Festival of Lights
Confused about what to wear or do at your friend's Deepavali celebration in Singapore? theAsianparent.com team compiled a list of everything you need to know for the upcoming Festival of Lights!
For the community, Deepavali is probably best known as the festival of kaleidoscopic colours and scrumptious smells. But how much do we really know about Deepavali celebration in Singapore?
And, if asked to partake in one, what of the customs and traditions are we aware?
Deepavali celebration in Singapore
Deepavali, or Diwali, is celebrated by the Hindus and Sikhs, within the period of mid-October to mid-November. Ironically, it is held on the darkest day of the year.
As such, the very festivities, abundant with lights, sound and colour, symbolise the triumph of light over dark, and good over evil. On a more spiritual level, this festival also promotes a deeper realisation of one’s inner light, and therefore an increased awareness of joy and peace.
There is a huge diversity in the ways in which the different groups of Indians and cultures celebrate Deepavali, and these differences carry on in Singapore, each to form their own distinctive ways of celebrating.
Traditionally, Deepavali is celebrated in many parts of India with prayers, food, and the lighting of firecrackers. This is, however, not practised in Singapore, due to safety issues, as well as the need to reduce noise pollution. Instead, kids and adults alike have their fun lighting dozens of sparklers.
Common customs during Deepavali celebration in Singapore
- Hindus typically light up the house and surroundings with diyas (or traditional clay/oil lamps) to eliminate any darkness from the surroundings.
- Rangolis, floor designs made using colourful powders, are drawn in and around the house.
- Puja, or aarthi, meaning prayers, are offered to the gods to give thanks, and to pray for continued blessings in the years ahead.
With the hustle and bustle of the goings-on, it’s easy to be baffled.
For the celebrations, the Hindus commonly wear brightly coloured, new outfits, to symbolise their appreciation for Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of light and prosperity.
- DO wear colourful clothes. The Festival of Lights, celebrating the triumph of light over dark in a large number of traditional legends, means that colour and “bling” are an integral part of contributing to the festive spirit. That means, the brighter and shinier, the better!
- DO wear something traditional. Most Hindus wear traditional outfits especially because it is compulsory to dress modestly during the prayer session on Deepavali day. So even if this may not be mandatory for you, grab the opportunity to immerse yourself and the kids in the culture and get kit up!
- DO try on henna tattoos. Traditionally, these are treated as sacred and can elevate the radiance of the soul. Temporary henna tattoos can also be found in most Indian shops and salons.
- Do NOT wear white or black. These colours are commonly associated with death and funerals in the Indian culture and are therefore considered inauspicious. Also, avoid dull and muted colours, such as neutral beiges or greys, as they are deemed gloomy colours.
- Do NOT wear skimpy clothes. Avoid outfits that are too revealing, especially bare legs. If you are wearing a low-necked blouse, for instance, drape it over with a scarf, or dupatta.
DO check with your host what time to turn up. Different families have different customs and celebration styles.
Be punctual if you have been invited to participate in the prayers with the family, as it is a sacred ritual and should not be interrupted by guests.
If you are invited to a celebration party, check with your hosts what your arrival time should be. In some Northern cultures, the host does not expect you to be punctual. In fact, the party generally starts 2 to 3 hours after the time stated on the invitation.
What gifts to bring for Deepavali celebration in Singapore
Gifts are not compulsory, but if you don’t wish to visit your host empty-handed, here are some suggestions:
- DO bring sweets. Mithai, also known as the traditional Indian “Sweets” can be purchased at most Indian restaurants in Singapore. However, if you are unsure of the varieties, a box of good quality chocolates will suffice.
- DO bring flowers. Again the general rule of thumb is colours.
- DO NOT bring alcohol. Although alcohol is not prohibited in the Hindu culture, most Hindus tend to refrain from drinking during these festive celebrations.
- DO NOT bring food. Your host would have prepared the dishes if he or she invited you over for the celebrations. But if you want to contribute to the festive celebrations, refrain from bringing any meat dishes, especially beef. This is because the cow is considered sacred in the Hindu culture and it would be a grave insult to the host.
If you are unable to attend the festivities but would like to wish your family, friends and colleagues, a simple “Happy Deepavali/Diwali” message would suffice.
- DO send your greetings on the day itself, but if you are unable to do so, you may still send your best wishes within the next day or two, as Deepavali celebrations tend to last for about 2 days in Singapore.
- DO send a card. This may not be necessary, but a card to the family would be a much-appreciated gesture.
- DO NOT speak of death and funerals. This is considered greatly inauspicious during the celebrations. Keep to the lighter subjects and discuss matters of joy and celebratory.
- DO ask about the culture. If you wish to know more about the festivities, the host family will be most happy to share the insights of their culture with you.
- Food is typically served on a traditional banana leaf in some families, to be eaten by hand, but if you don’t feel comfortable eating that way, it is okay to request for forks and spoons.
- DO try some of the dishes offered to you by the host as it is hugely impolite to not try anything.
Serangoon Road is the best place to enjoy the Deepavali experience. The beautiful brightly-lit streets, bustling crowds and noisy celebrations are bound to leave a lasting impression on both the Indians and non-Indians.
It is also the best place to go to purchase sweetmeats or clothes, with Mustafa Centre and Tekka Market located within walking distances from each other.
We hope you are sufficiently prepped for the festivities.
From all of us at theAsianparent.com, we wish our readers a very Happy Deepavali!