For an exhaustive list of events beyond those listed here, check http://events.frommers.com, where you'll find a searchable, up-to-the-minute roster of what's happening in cities all over the world.
New Year's Day. The first day of the calendar year is celebrated in Singapore by all races and religions. New Year's Eve in Singapore is always cause for parties similar to those in the West. Look for special events at restaurants and nightclubs, but don't expect to find a taxi when you need one. January 1.
Lunar New Year or Chinese New Year. If you want to catch the biggest event in the Chinese calendar and in Singapore, come during Chinese New Year for parades and festivals. Late January/February.
Thaipusam Festival. If you're lucky enough to be in Singapore during this event, you're in for a bizarre cultural treat. This annual festival is celebrated by Hindus to give thanks to Lord Subramaniam, the child god who represents virtue, youth, beauty, and valor. During Thaipusam, male Hindus who have made prayers to Subramaniam for special wishes must carry kavadis in gratitude. These huge steel racks are decorated with flowers and fruits and are held onto the men's bodies by skewers and hooks that pierce the skin. Carrying the kavadis, the devotees parade from Sri Perumal Temple in Little India to the Sri Thandayuthapani Temple, where family members remove the heavy structures. For an additional spectacle, they will pierce their tongues and cheeks with skewers and hang fruits from hooks in their flesh. The devotees have all undergone strict diet and prayer before the festival, and it is reported that, afterward, no scars remain. Late January/early February.
Good Friday. Churches and cathedrals hold special services on this Christian holiday to remember the crucifixion of Christ. St. Joseph's on Victoria Street holds an annual candlelight procession. Late March/early April.
Qing Ming (All Souls' Day). Qing Ming, or All Souls' Day, was originally a celebration of spring. On this day, Chinese families have picnics at ancestral graves, cleaning the graves and pulling weeds, lighting red candles, burning joss sticks and "hell money" (paper money that, when burned, ascends to the afterworld to be used by ancestors), and bringing rice, wine, and flowers for the deceased in a show of ancestral piety. Early April.
Vesak Day. Buddhist shrines and temples are adorned with banners, lights, and flowers; and worshipers gather to observe the birth, enlightenment, and death of the Buddha, which all occurred on this day. Good places to watch the festivities are the Temple of a Thousand Lights in Little India or Thian Hock Keng Temple in Chinatown. On this day, Buddhists will refrain from eating meat, donate food to the poor, and set animals (especially birds) free to show kindness and generosity. It falls on the full moon of the fifth month of the lunar calendar -- which means somewhere around mid-May.
Singapore Arts Festival. During this month-long festival, premier local, regional, and international music and dance performances are staged in a number of venues. The cultural performances, some modern and some traditional, are always excellent and are highly recommended. Check out www.singaporeartsfest.com. Late May to mid-June.
Singapore World Invitational Dragon Boat Races. The annual dragon boat races are held to remember the fate of Qu Yuan, a patriot and poet during the Warring States period in Chinese history (475-221 B.C.) who threw himself into a river to end his suffering at watching his state fall into ruin under the hands of corrupt leadership. The people searched for him in boats shaped like dragons, beating gongs and throwing rice dumplings into the water to distract the River Dragon. Today the dragon boat races are an international event, with rowing teams from up to 20 countries coming together to compete. Drums are still beaten, and rice dumplings are still a traditional favorite. Contact the STB for information. Late June/early July.
The Great Singapore Sale. This is a month-long promotion to increase retail sales, and most shops will advertise huge savings for the entire month. It's well publicized with red banners all over Orchard Road. June into July.
The Singapore Food Festival. Local chefs compete for honors in this month-long exhibition of international culinary delights. It's a good time to be eating in Singapore, as restaurants feature the brand-new creations they have entered in the events. Contact the STB.. July.
Maulidin Nabi. Muslims celebrate the birth of the Prophet Mohammed on this day. Sultan Mosque is the center of the action for Muslims who come to chant in praise. July 17.
National Day. On August 9, 1965, Singapore separated from the Federation of Malaysia, becoming an independent republic. Patriotism is celebrated with a big parade held on a floating platform in Marina Bay with live performances, music, and fireworks. Tickets are available only through lottery, so few short-term visitors ever get the chance to see it live. August 9.
Festival of the Hungry Ghosts. The Chinese believe, that once a year, the gates of Purgatory are opened and all the souls inside are let loose to wander among the living. To appease these restless spirits and prevent evil from falling upon themselves, the Chinese burn joss, hell money, and paper replicas of luxury items, the latter two meant to appear in the afterworld for greedy ghosts to use. The main event is on the 15th day of the 7th month of the lunar calendar and is celebrated with huge feasts. At markets, altars offer mountains of goodies for hungry ghosts as well. Chinese operas are performed throughout the month to entertain the spirits and make them more docile. Nowadays, with Chinese Opera becoming a dying art, a lot of the street performances are karaoke acts. Mid-August/mid-September.
The Mooncake and Lantern Festivals. Traditionally called the Mid-Autumn Festival, it was celebrated to give thanks for a plentiful harvest. The origins date from the Sung Dynasty (A.D. 970-1279), when Chinese officials would exchange round mirrors as gifts to represent the moon and symbolize good health and success. Today the holiday is celebrated by eating moon cakes, which are sort of like little round hockey pucks filled with lotus seed paste or red bean paste and a salted duck egg yolk. Children light colorful plastic or paper lanterns shaped like fish, birds, butterflies, and, more recently, cartoon characters. There's an annual lantern display and competition out at the Chinese Garden, with acrobatic performances, lion dances, and night bazaars. Late September/early October.
Birthday of the Monkey God. In the Chinese temples, ceremonies are performed by mediums who pierce their faces and tongues and write prayers with the blood. In the temple courtyards, you can see Chinese operas and puppet shows. The Tan Si Chong Su Temple on Magazine Road, upriver from Boat Quay, is a good bet for seeing the ceremonies. Contact the STB for information. Late September/early October.
Hari Raya Puasa. Hari Raya Puasa marks the end of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting during daylight hours. During Ramadan, food stalls line up around the Sultan Mosque in Kampong Glam, ready to sell tasty Malay goodies at sundown. Hari Raya Puasa is a 3-day celebration (though only the first day is a public holiday) of thanksgiving dinners, and non-Muslims are often invited to these feasts, as the holiday symbolizes an openness of heart and mind and a renewed sense of community. During the course of the 3 evenings, Geylang is decorated with lights and banners and the whole area is open for a giant pasar malam, or night market. In 2011 and 2012, the holiday falls in August.
Pilgrimage to Kusu Island. During this month-long period, plan your trips to Kusu Island wisely, as the place becomes a mob scene. Throughout the month (the lunar month, that is), Chinese travel to this small island to visit the temple there and pray for another year of health and wealth. October/November.
Festival of the Nine-Emperor God. During this celebration, held over the first 9 days of the ninth month of the lunar calendar (to the Chinese, the double nines are particularly auspicious), temples are packed with worshipers, hawkers sell religious items outside, and Chinese operas are performed for the Nine-Emperor God, a composite of nine former emperors who control the prosperity and health of worshipers. At the height of the festival, priests write prayers with their own blood. On the ninth day, the festival closes as the Nine-Emperor God's spirit, contained in an urn, is sent to sea on a small decorated boat. Contact the STB for information. Late October.
Navarathiri Festival. During this 9-day festival, Hindus make offerings to the wives of Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma. The center point in the evenings is Sri Thandayuthapani Temple, where dances and musical performances are staged. Performances begin around 7:30pm. Contact the STB for information. Late October/early November.
Deepavali. Hindus and Sikhs celebrate Deepavali (also called Diwali) as the first day of their calendar. The new year is ushered in with new clothing, social feasts, and gatherings. It's a beautiful holiday, with Hindu temples aglow from the tiny earthen candles placed in crevices in the sides of walls. Hindus believe that the souls of the deceased come to earth during this time, and the candles help to light their way back to heaven. During the celebration, Serangoon Road in Little India is a mesmerizing display of colored lights and decorative arches. The dates quoted above are estimates only, as Hindu officials had not released dates at the time of writing.
Thimithi Festival. Thimithi begins at the Sri Perumal Temple in Little India and makes its way in parade fashion to the Sri Mariamman Temple in Chinatown. Outside the temple, a bed of hot coals is prepared and a priest will lead the way, walking first over the coals, to be followed one at a time by devotees. Crowds gather to watch the spectacle, which begins around 5pm. Make sure you're early so you can find a good spot. Contact the STB for information. Late October/early November.
Christmas Light-Up. Orchard Road is brilliant in bright and colorful streams of Christmas lights and garlands. All of the hotels and shopping malls participate, dressed in the usual Christmas regalia of nativity scenes and Santa Clauses.
Hari Raya Haji. One of the five pillars of Islam involves making a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime, and Hari Raya Haji (Eid al-Adha) is celebrated the day after pilgrims make this annual voyage to fulfill their spiritual promise. Muslims who have made the journey adopt the title of Haji (for men) and Hajjah (for women). After morning prayers, sheep and goats are sacrificed and their meat is distributed to poor families. In 2011 and 2012, this holiday falls in late October/early November.
Christmas Day. On this day, Christian Singaporeans celebrate the birth of Christ. December 25.