Friday, November 09, 2007
The Celebrations Continue
Today marks the end of Syawal. Hari Raya Eidulfitri is now over after a month of festive celebrations by Muslims around the world.
Within this 700 sq km island of Singapore life where 4 million people call it home, Chinese being the predominant race here making up 75% of the population, while native Malays... ancestors from the then mainland Malaysia, make up about 15%.
Indians being the third major race making up about 6% while other races complete the multi-racial mix we have living here today.
With the many races, so too are the cultures each ethnic people bring and religions they practice... and much needed public holidays!
The Chinese has 2 days for Chinese New Year early this year and 1 day for Vesak Day.
The Malays have 2 days... one for Hari Raya Eidulfitri that was on 12 October 2007 and has just ended its celebration, while another is Hari Raya Eidul-Adha which will be on 20 December. Yes!
Christmas is another major public holiday... a very neutral day and is celebrated by practically everyone.
Simply because the whole island becomes a shopping haven for gifts and great bargains for seasonal shopping tourists as far as Indonesia and Mauritius. I guess it has become so much commercialized than anything but a religious event in the eyes of a non-Christian, like me.
Deepavali is celebrated by Indians who are mostly Hindus.
While the rest of Singaporeans get a public holiday last Thursday, 8 November... most took leave off work on Friday for a 4-day long weekend, Indians in Singapore celebrate their most important religious event as with the people in India where the legend came from.
Deepavali is an Indian word for "row of lights." Earthen oil lamps placed in a row at their homes on this day to guide the descended spirits of their ancestors to the next word.
Legend has it that an oppressive ruler, Narakasura was killed by Lord Krishna symbolizing triumph of good over evil, lightness over darkness, thus the celebrations of lights, of bright new beginnings.
Hindus in Singapore woulds celebrate it by going to the temple for blessings, giving offerings of sweet meats to and placing lavender garlands on the altar in their homes. It is also known to be a good time to buy new items for the home as some Indians from other Indian precincts regard this day as their new year.
Indian businesses too will celebrate it by opening on the day to let Lord Krishna visit and bless their business for a profitable year to come.
If I am not mistaken, Hindus in neighboring Malaysia would bathe themselves in oil, blessed from the temple or their home altar... another variation of celebrations coming from a certain part if the vast India.
The most popular spot for Indians in Singapore is definitely Little India in Serangoon Road.
Like the Malays have Geylang Serai and Kampung Glam to congregate for purchases at the Raya Bazaars, Indians have their treats with the stretch of road in Little India lit with multicolored lights and ethnic Indian decorations to get the festive shopping that much uplifting.
An atmospheric feast as well for other natives here and tourists alike to enjoy.
Born and growing up here, this is just the tip of the iceberg... in a tropical setting, melting in the pot of varied cultures, deep in traditions and religious practices that I myself have yet to uncover and understand a little more, given time... as we live harmoniously together.
Harmony amongst various races and religions is a luxury.
It has to be nurtured, respected and requires effort to not be taken for granted because it is delicate and sensitive as it is beautiful.