Social customs, including religious and non-religious rituals, ceremonies and festivals that make up Singapore’s cultural diversity.
Cheongsams were popular among Chinese women in Singapore up to the 1960s. Today, they are mostly worn on special occasions such as Chinese New Year or for weddings.
The traditional Malay costume is called the baju kurong, and it is worn both for formal occasions such as weddings and as informal, everyday wear.
Nyonya beadwork and embroidery are craft forms associated with the Peranakan community, and are found in decorations for everyday household items, as well as more ornamental pieces for special occasions such as weddings.
Wushu (武术), also known as Chinese martial arts, originated in China. It started out in Singapore as a sport within Chinese clan associations.
Silat is a broad term that refers to a form of martial arts commonly practised in Southeast Asia.
Silambam is a form of martial art involving the act of fencing using a long staff, originating in ancient India.
Lion dance performances are common in Singapore during Chinese New Year and other Chinese cultural and religious festivals and are symbolic in bringing good fortune and luck to the people.
A typical Chinese wedding in Singapore includes numerous traditional rituals that tend to vary according to dialect groups.
Malay weddings are festive and celebratory affairs involving many relatives and friends, which continue to be deeply rooted in their cultural and religious elements.
The wedding customs for the Indian community are wide-ranging, with diverse traditions within the different ethnic groups. Tamil Hindu weddings are one of the commonly observed wedding rituals by the Indian community in Singapore.
Many Singapore Eurasians are Catholics, and the wedding rites are performed by the church.
Chinese New Year is a festival observed by ethnic Chinese all over the world, including Singapore.
Hari Raya Puasa is a major festival marking the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Deepavali, or the Festival of Lights, is a festival celebrating the triumph of good over evil.
Christmas is a festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, and is also a festival that is celebrated in a secular way in Singapore.
The Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the 15th day of the eight month of the Chinese Lunar calendar. It is celebrated by the Chinese communities around the world.
Hari Raya Haji is a festival observed by Muslims which marks the end of the Haj, the holy pilgrimage to Mecca that Muslims embark on.
Thaipusam is a religious festival of thanksgiving celebrated by Hindu devotees.
Easter is a Christian festival celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Dragon Boat Festival (Duan Wu Jie; 端午节 ) falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, and is celebrated by Chinese communities worldwide.
Thimithi, also known as "fire walking", is a ceremony that is held in honour of Draupadi, an important female character in the Hindu epic Mahabharata, who had proven her purity by walking barefoot across fire and emerging unharmed.
Vesak Day (Wesak Day), also referred to as "Buddha’s Birthday", is an annual religious festival celebrated by the two major Buddhist denominations in Singapore: Theravada and Mahayana Buddhists.
During Qing Ming Jie (清明节), it is a tradition for the Chinese to visit cemeteries and columbaria to pay respects to their deceased family members as an expression of filial piety.
Pongal is a harvest and thanksgiving festival in the Tamil month of Thai, and typically takes place in January.
Zhong Yuan Jie (中元节), also known as “Hungry Ghost Festival”, takes place on the seventh month of the Lunar calendar, and is mostly observed by Chinese Buddhists and Taoists.
"Kusu Island" is located in the south west of Singapore. Annually, during the ninth month of the Lunar calendar, pilgrims visit the island to make offerings and seek blessings.
Traditional Chinese puppet performances are closely linked to Taoist and Chinese religious festivals, and there are variations across dialect groups.
is a traditional headgear commonly associated with and worn by males from the Malay community.
Hawker culture in Singapore can be traced back to street hawkers and the hawker centres which were first built to resettle street hawkers in the 1970s.
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Chinese calligraphy is the ancient art form of writing Chinese characters using a brush and black ink. There is a strong emphasis on technique, with apprentices copying the works of their masters repeatedly until they can produce perfect copies. There are many places offering calligraphy classes in Singapore, and some Chinese Singaporean families like to display calligraphy with poems or auspicious sayings in their homes.
Practices relating to sea deities
Mazu (妈祖) is the most commonly worshipped sea deity. Chinese immigrants used to pray to her for safe voyages and many such temples were set up in Singapore. Today, celebrations for Mazu are common at temples such as Thian Hock Keng Temple. The temple organises lion dance performances, getai and traditional Hokkien string puppet shows for devotees as part of its annual celebrations on the birthday of Mazu.
Nine Emperor Gods Festival
The Nine Emperor Gods Festival is a Taoist festival celebrating the birthday of the Nine Human Sovereigns who are the sons of Dou Mu (斗姆). It is celebrated across temples in Singapore and the festival is known for its temple processions that take place during the celebrations.
Social Practices of Chinese Clan Associations
Clan associations were established by Chinese immigrants to Singapore as venues for socialisation and to provide support to new immigrants. Some of the social practices of these associations include the celebration of major Chinese festivals, such as Chinese New Year, Qing Ming Jie, Dragon Boat Festival and Mid-Autumn Festival. These social practices still continue today, and some clan associations have even started to organise “heritage festivals” or “cultural events” as a means of promoting clan heritage to younger members.
Pawnshops have existed in Singapore since the colonial times, and they provide loans to people in return for items that are pledged to them. Some pawnshops have undergone an image overhaul and adopted a more modern look in order to draw younger customers.
Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday
Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, which falls on the twelfth day of the third month in the Islamic calendar, is an important day to all Muslims, who are encouraged to spend it in quiet reflection by reading the Quran, the Islamic holy book. In Singapore, the occasion is commemorated through prayers and talks held at mosques to pay tribute to the life history of the Prophet.
Sepak takraw is a traditional game and sport where two competing teams will strive to keep a rattan ball in the air and kick it into their opponent’s court by using their feet, chest or head – without using their hands. It is a sport that is popular among countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and is played competitively in schools in Singapore and at regional sporting events like the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
Making and Wearing of Traditional Indian Costumes
Indian traditional costumes include items such as sari, kurta (straight-cut, loose-fitting top) and lehenga (long skirt). Traditionally, costumes such as sari would be worn for the first time when a girl was presented as a potential bride, but there are now variants in all the costumes such that they can be worn as daily wear, or for special occasions such as Deepavali. Most tailors who offer customised traditional outfits can be found in Little India.
Punarpusam Ratha Urchavam (Silver Chariot Procession)
The Punarpusam Ratha Urchavam, or silver chariot procession, is part of Thaipusam. It involves carrying a statue of Lord Murugan between Sri Thendayuthapani Temple at Tank Road to Sri Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple at Keong Saik Road. The ritual honours Lord Murugan’s triumph over the evil Asura (divine being) Soorapadman.
Chettiars are moneylenders from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. They worked in a kitangi, or warehouse. In the past, chettiars would share one kitangi and each chettiar would be assigned their designated spots to conduct business. Chettiars provided funds and loans for various businesses in Singapore, such as rubber plantations and real estate. The Sri Thendayuthapani Temple at Tank Road is popularly known as "Chettiars Temple" because the chettiars built it to honour Lord Murugan.
Getai (歌台), meaning "song stage", refers to performances put up during Hungry Ghost Festival to entertain both the living and the dead. In the past, performances used to feature mostly Chinese opera performed in dialects. Over time, the repertoire for getai has evolved to include songs sung in English, Mandarin, dialects and even Korean.
Traditional Provision Shops
Traditional provision shops are typically operated as family owned businesses and they serve the needs of the community around where they are located. In the past, provision shops often functioned as community hubs and provided easy access to daily provisions including sundry items, canned food, dried goods, newspapers and toys. While traditional provision shops have declined over the years due to the proliferation of supermarkets, mini-marts and online shopping, some of these shops can still be found in housing estates across Singapore.
The inventory will be a growing inventory where we will continue to add more intangible cultural heritage elements as well as more research and documentation materials over time.
As at April 2018, the inventory consists of research on 50 elements and more will be added progressively.