Ramadan lights at Geylang Serai - Creative Commons
“Like many Muslims around the world, Singaporeans look at Ramadan as a time of spiritual reflection and renewing their souls, but most importantly as a time of enlightenment and learning more about our religion,” says Arisha Yaman, describing the aura of the holy month in her hometown.
Ramadan’s magical spirit is present in every part of Singapore’s lively culture. “The streets become filled with colorful bazaars and people get together to welcome the holy month with traditional music and delectable dishes served in tents around the busy streets of the Geylang Serai district where people come to celebrate the beginning of Ramadan, even non-Muslims,” Yaman recounts.
The streets of the Geylang Serai are decorated with jubilant lights and glittering baubles “usually visible from several kilometers,” Yaman adds.
The bazaar is held throughout the holy month hosting a various number of cuisines; Singapore’s traditional fruit and veggies salad dish, biryani, laksa (a spicy chicken and prawns noodles dish), satay (grilled meat) and the most popular dessert Singapore has ever known, the ice kachang (ice balls covered in a sugary syrup with jelly cubes, sweet corn and various toppings).
Other Singaporean Ramadan traditions include henna art and craftsmen making customized calligraphy during the nights of Ramadan. “Houses are renowned with colorful hand-woven carpets to add to the spirit of the holy month,” Yamman explains. “Women usually dress in light-colored baju kurungs [a wraparound dress, the long established Malay costume].”
Another notable custom of Singaporeans in Ramadan is “giveaways” following the Qur’anic verse: “You cannot attain to righteousness unless you spend out of what you love.” Yaman explains that the giveaways are not just food, “After taraweeh prayers, many people let their children pass around their neighbors houses and each family gives something they love away; be it a toy, a dress or a book or a special dish. Afterwards, all the giveaways are distributed to the underprivileged.”