Living in Singapore Magazine - November/December 2023

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November/December 2023

SEASON OF GIVING Where to shop to not only give, but to give back

The Colors of Singapore

More impactful donations

Celebrate Songkran

All about the annual celebrations on the island

Tips on how to make the most of charitable donations

The wettest festival you've probably never heard of LIVING IN SINGAPORE 1


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who we are EDITORIAL Editor-in-Chief: Susan Williams communications@aasingapore.com

As we enter the holiday season, our calendars fill up with events where we connect with our community and celebrate the closing out of another year. It’s a time when we reflect on the meaning of giving and the joy it brings. In this issue, we share various ways in which you can give and also give back. Many charities in Singapore sell items that are perfect for gifting, and in purchasing these items, you are also helping the charity. We also highlight some ways to be a yearly sponsor if buying tangible items isn’t your thing. Donations, no matter how big or small, have the potential to create a meaningful impact. In this issue, we examine avenues to maximize your charitable contributions, giving them longevity and a more significant impact. Whether helping those in need or contributing to initiatives that promote positive change, our actions can make a profound difference. As we celebrate the holiday season in Singapore and around the world, let us remember the wealth of traditions and festivities that enrich our lives. The diversity of celebrations, from Diwali to Christmas, Hanukkah to Eid, reflects the beauty of our interconnected world. Now more than ever, seeing the positive impacts of our diverse society is essential. Wishing you all a season filled with warmth, love, and giving.

Publishing Editor: Melinda Murphy generalmanager@aasingapore.com LAYOUT Graphic Designer: Susan Williams graphics@aasingapore.com ADVERTISING Advertising Manager: Thila Chandra thila@aasingapore.com COLUMNIST Andrea McKenna Brankin CONTRIBUTORS Faith Chanda, Asif R. Chowdhury, Cara D'Avanzo, Richard Hartung, Laura Hodges, Shirley Kim, Adam Klann, Melinda Murphy, Sammy Zhao AMERICAN ASSOCIATION BOARD MEMBERS President: Ashok Lalwani Vice President: Mkulima Britt Treasurer: Naureen Rasul Secretary: Jennifer Yarbrough Directors-at-Large: Ed Fitzpatrick, Aaron Kim, Daniel Moss, Michelle Reeb, Priyesh Shah AmCham: Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei AWA: Julia Tan SACAC: Dan Levine SAS: Kyle Aldous The American Club: Adam Radicic Non-Voting Members US Embassy: Lisa Liao US Navy COMLOG WESTPAC: Rear Admiral Mark Melson AAS: Melinda Murphy PUBLISHER – AMERICAN ASSOCIATION The American Association of Singapore (AAS) is a professional, notfor-profit organization established to enhance the well-being and living experience of Americans residing in Singapore and to promote relationships, both business and social, between Americans and those from different cultures and nationalities. 56A Boat Quay, Singapore 049845 • (+65) 8030 6183 admin@aasingapore.com • www.aasingapore.com Living In Singapore magazine will be released six times per year, with the purpose of enhancing the expatriate experience in Singapore.

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A subscription to Living in Singapore is complementary with an AAS membership. AAS annual family membership is $120.

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what’s in... 10 Community News 30 Meet Kalliope Coplin

The voice at the front of the hit band, 10.Seconds.

39 Season of Giving

Where to shop to give back.

30

42 Make Your Donations More Impactful Tips on making your charitable donations go further.

46 Celebrating Songkran The wettest festival in Thailand.

50 The Colors of the Island Singapore's annual celebrations.

39

42 46

50


message from the president By Ashok Lalwani I always love this time of year (which luckily comes around sooner and sooner each year!). The Holiday Season always puts a bit of extra spring in every step and gets us that much closer to seeing our wider family and friends. Our issue this month appropriately focuses on festivals and giving. There are several volunteering opportunities available over the next few months. You can contribute and help pack food and leisure items for AAS and Stamford American International School’s Shoeboxes for Sailors. These small packages bring a little bit of home to sailors who are away at sea and from family for long periods in service of our country. December will bring Toys for Tots, where the community’s generosity brings a lot of smiles to kids in Singapore. AAS will again hold the Thanksgiving Feast & Fun at the XCL American Academy on Sunday, November 19. Last year, this was a sold-out event with food, fun, and games for the whole family. Please visit our website for tickets. We will hold the 88th George Washington Ball, A Night of Fabulous Fortune, on January 27. This will be the biggest and best ball ever! Tickets are going fast, and we’ll be raising money for Over-the-Rainbow this year. Please buy your tickets as soon as possible as they will likely not be around when you return from the holidays. Our hard-working GWB Committee is planning an event that will bring fortune and luck to all who attend! I wish you all a very happy holiday season and a safe journey for those traveling.

American Community Organizations Directory AAS aasingapore.com

AWA awasingapore.org

SAS sas.edu.sg

The American Club amclub.org.sg

AmCham amcham.com.sg

Navy League nlus-sgp.org

SAIS sais.edu.sg

US Embassy sg.usembassy.gov

American Dragons americandragons.sg

SACAC Sports safl.sacac.com

Scouts BSA Troop 07: www.bsatroop07.org BSA Troop 10: www.sgtroop10.org BSA Troop 1010: sgtroop1010@gmail.com

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Cub Scouts Pack 3017: cubscoutsusa.com.sg USA Girl Scouts: www.singaporeusagirlscouts.org


member benefits AAS paid members enjoy discounts at a range of local businesses. Check out our website for more details. AAS members, be sure to log in to receive discount codes on the “Your AAS Membership Card” page.

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upcoming events Dragon Boat Day Nov 5, 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Shoeboxes for Sailors Nov 18, 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM

AAS at ACRES Nov 11, 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM

Thanksgiving Feast & Fun Nov 19, 4:00 — 6:00 PM

Investing in Whisky Nov 15, 7:00 – 9:00 PM

Stitching Social with Bernina Nov 20, 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Boozy Bus Christmas Light Up Tour Dec 1, 7:00 — 10:00 PM Toys for Tots Dec 4, 5:00 — 7:00 PM The 88th George Washington Ball Jan 27, 6:30 PM

Welcome to our new annual partners, Little Farms and SOS, and thank you for the continued support of our returning sponsors! AAS Strategic Partners Patriot Partners

Stars & Stripes Partners

Community Partners

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Living in Singapore Reference Guide Launch Party

We officially celebrated the launch of the most recent edition of the Living in Singapore Reference Guide with a party at the US Ambassador's Residence. It was great to chat with the authors, and to hear from Lisa Liao, Management Counselor at the US Embassy, who shared her personal praise for the book. Thank you to Ambassador Jonathan Kaplan and his partner, Karen Doff, for opening his home to us, and to Huber's for providing beautiful and delicious trays of charcuterie! See more photos here.

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Newbie Night Congratulations to Peter Sasi, winner of two, round-trip, economy class tickets to the US, courtesy of United Airlines! Peter won our Membership Drive lucky draw. To celebrate and to welcome our new members who joined during the drive, we gathered at Miss Fitz. It was great to give new members a chance to meet one another and make new friends! See more photos here.

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Pickleball Bash

We had a blast learning to play pickleball with the terrific coaches at UFIT! After learning the basics, we played a round-robin tournament. Congratulations to Sean Morgan, Eren Ergin, and Katie Brown, the top three players in our fun and friendly tournament! Sean and Eren, in first and second place, each won a seven-day pass to UFIT. All three received a UFIT shirt. Congratulations also to the top two children's finishers, Sebastian Bonora and Lulu Green, who each went home with a $50 voucher to Hard Rock Cafe! Thank you to UFIT, to Hard Rock Cafe for the kid's prize, and to Stamford American International School for hosting us! Keep an eye out on our website for future pickleball events, and maybe even a league! See more photos here.

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Our new

offerings! Visit our website to find out more about each of our sports groups.

AAS Flag Football

Yankee Noodles

The newest Olympic sport is coming to AAS and we are starting to build our team! Join the AAS Flag Football WhatsApp Group to be a part of the action and get the latest updates. The team will be open to both male and female players, but you must be an AAS member to join!

The Yankee Noodles is our softball team, first founded in 2023 (though we had another softball team years ago, first started in 1935!). It's a great group, a mix of Americans, Singaporeans and so many others! The team plays on Sunday afternoons. Learn more about the team here.

AAS Social Sports Clubs Running Club We are so excited to get our running group up and running! It is open to all levels, but you must be an AAS member to join! Be part of the AAS Running Club WhatsApp group to show your interest.

Biking Club Volunteer Needed! AAS is looking for a Champion (or CoChampions) to shape our new Biking Club! Are you looking for a new crew to tour around Singapore on two wheels?

The Champion gets to pick the locations, timing and cadence of the Club meet-ups and gets a FREE Watch Parties AAS membership for volunteering! AAS will help Every weekend, our annual partner, organize WhatsApp groups for the Club and also SOS, hosts watch parties so we can spread the word for participants to sign-up. If you all get together to watch our favorite would like to be the Biking Club Champion, send sports. Games to be shown are announced in the an email to businessdev@aasingapore.com with AAS weekly eDM and on our website under the your interest now! sports section.

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All other conditions can be seen at the Urgent Care. These include minor ailments like the flu, gastritis, food poisoning, urine infections to more urgent conditions like asthma, abdominal pain, fractures, dislocations, and open wounds. 2. What to expect and what’s the waiting time at the Urgent Care Centre? You can expect to be attended within 15 minutes. More urgent cases may be prioritised to ensure those with critical medical needs receive timely care. 3. What age group of patients can be seen at the Urgent Care Centre? Urgent Care Centre sees patients of various age groups, including paediatric, adult and elderly populations. StarMed Urgent Care Centre is located at 12 Farrer Park Station Road, Singapore 217565, opens 8am to 12midnight daily, including weekends and public holidays to accommodate patients outside of regular GP clinic hours. Patients can seek medical care with prior appointment. Overall, Urgent Care Centre provides accessible, timely and efficient healthcare services to address urgent medical needs that do not require emergency care.

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e b o l G e h t ss o r c A Scouting odges, BSA Troop 1010G By Laura H

about est things rd a h e th b Scouts nd one of I joined Cu . ber 2021 a y e to rs c O Je in w , my e Singapore troop in N third grade to A In S d . B e ls y v ir o m g m to mom oodbye pened to My family as saying g ting was o u w o c S s U A e S y th B m leaving ds and first year rhood frien r 2018, the o e b b h m ig e te n p e h it ckyard, in S as filled w s in my ba g w n n ti e e d e t m u o d a ears Cub Sc We often h ols. A few y r. o e h d c a s le d n n a e al parks and we was my d were to loc SA troop, B s g ’ n ls ti ir u g o r a ts and ou same plan sed over to e s th ro y c b n d e e d trying surround later, our constantly rby forests e a il e h n W in . h d it e ith w camp onment w grown up ir v d n a e h I r ia ls il a xpect and anim ys in a fam a what to e e I was alwa id , o s g n in d a th new school. I h ent to my w o h w s kid have re! 010G, we in Singapo 1 p o ro T A beyond. troop, BS apore and ew scout g n in y S m in h s it W nds, ture g new frie zing adven in a k m a nt places a m y n d a e rings us start om differe had m I fr , e g n m ti o e outdoors b c e e ll a m th e t f o W rs fi e l. v o nd it ho From the nture and lo u Hantu, a e o to my sc v g la d u ’t a P n f , o o d d n e s la m o opical is castles ut our sen most of wh make sand grounds, b time on a tr k d t c n rs a a fi b , t g e n in th re to m r with diffe all the way ter, go swim overnight fo rk a d a w e P p e t s m th a a r o c a C I r. tents ne is Park om East all togethe set up our rom Pasir R our bikes fr F to e ! n d e in fu ro tl h e s c a w u o t, c ting was so m er campou Singapore and naviga e th s o e th n h a c re n n lo O ra p . b x ch to eat g under way to e on the bea a new way a fantastic ves, duckin s s ro a u g t w n h a It g . m u y a h ta the ug Marina B our guides d of seeing yaked thro a d a n te k a s e r, In w te !) , a in th b our mou monkeys, h on the w to Pulau U fruit into y I’ve seen e e had lunc , y th W e . e rs z ts e o Je e ro u w d an sq around ikes in Ne 022, I visite h m up and 2 e r u th in o d h n n is a o u il q p in Tha unks like mangoes (s scout cam and chipm to ls t n re e ir w u q e s familiar d when w mer d more. An n a , s e il ip this sum d tr o p m a croc c t u our sco nd one anctuary! memory is out troop a c le s b elephant s J ra N o y m m e m after My most m friends fro pore, and t a s g e b in S y m in f s wo o to Nepal to visit u to Nepal. T ers came e traveled d w a , le re t e u h o c s and ce of my NJ s Singapore, favorite pla d n y a m J f N o m e om rent fro nts with exploring s totally diffe environme s d a n a w l s a p re e u nces ult together. N cultural da lore new c w p e x n e g to in g rn azin ling the From lea it was am s, and batt the world. ld r e e fi v e o c ll ri a h here g scouts from iking throu ait to see w h w , ’t ts n u a o c c I s lese ll moment. from Nepa never a du s a w re e e next! leeches, th oop ey takes m rn u jo g n Leader in Tr ti l u o tr a P a my sco Scout and Class rank d n o c e S Laura is a 1010G.


Girl Scouts Give Back by Shirley Kim GSO Singapore In the spring of 2023, the Girl Scouts of USA es – where Daisies worked towards earning “healthy eating” badg g choices. As Girl to Seniors learned how to make healthy eatin solve problems in Scouts emphasizes learning to identify and rtunity for the girls the community, the group identified an oppo eating classes to to combine what they learned in their healthy help those in their community. from Troop 66, I spoke with Robyn Ong, a first-year Brownie to her community. to learn more about her experience in giving t is Day Camp, While Robyn’s favorite annual Girl Scout even ls at an old folks’ and she loves going to sing Christmas caro enjoyed delivering home during the holidays, she especially munity. healthy snack bags to those in her local com ther to prepare More than ten Girl Scout troops worked toge care packages. As for the event and packed more than 200 ks, the girls filled the project aimed to provide healthy snac e, raisins, soya and decorated brown bags, including an appl milk, and bread. go door-to-door in their local community. The next step was to divide into groups and a snack bag to the residents. To Robyn’s The girls knocked and respectfully offered darin helped her easily communicate surprise, toggling between English and Man packages. Robyn also learned that it was with the residents when delivering the care that not everyone wanted a care package necessary to respect others and understand did not need help.” and realized “it was okay if the other person p 76, was impressed that the nearly Troop leader Ouiyoung Kim, from Junior Troo e the 200 care packages to families in 65 girls persevered and helped to distribut Kim stated, “While it was not easy for the two different HDB communities. Ms. and offer them youngest Girl Scouts to approach strangers and strong and snacks, the Girl Scouts were courageous ered.” carried on until all the packages were deliv Scouts and be Robyn hopes that more girls will join Girl e. She has a a part of the Girl Scout community in Singapor fun field trips lot of fun making “cool SWAPS” and going on Girl Scouts and like the Bee Farm and hopes to meet more ity. continue to be a part of this fantastic commun


g n i t u o c S h g u o r h T Learning toZhCaooo, BSkA Troop 10 By Sammy

grade 6. ce I was in in s m ra g rtant ro scouting p ularly impo e ic rt th a p in n is e l This skil nt. I have be g cooking. elf-confide Zhao, and s in y d d m n lu a c m t a in n S , e ls is depend rious skil My name ard being in , I learn va w g to n ti p u te o s c s t n nt Through developme e take a gia l m il k s lp e t h n l a il c w is is a d to signifi because it l my life. Th ting has le o u tr o n c o s c in to e t c me, I go nd make g experien k, decide, a babysitting in m The cookin th o m to y y m it and il b stead of inks knives ained the a th g o e h v a w h in my life. In I id k s a agrance m a naive in maturity nd of the fr e gone fro fo v a n huge step h a I m . lf g e n s st for my vated you what is be a self-moti ces. to s u ro e dang ped into pie p re o a h s c e v re a to s es tains all which con and potato , s x n o io b n k o c n u ls is ch whe rsatile too ers is the e n v rt t s a o p m g e in itchen. One of th best cook bile mini k r cooking. o One of my fo m d a e ir s a u q lia d dgets re e describe d of Mongo b n la n s a s c ra sorts of ga h g ic e h act, it er it's th le stove, w is so comp u go, wheth o e y v the portab r to e s v e re e th ut rry it wh ke it witho epal. Since N ta f to o u n You can ca o io y g re allowing e an untainous backpack, has becom rd it a , or the mo e d c n n ta ie s n r fit in you its conve can easily ecause of B . s s e tr s r ping life. ht o utdoor cam o at much weig t u o c s e tent task th of th is rt s a n p o l c a a ti n esse arning is improve ing else, le ontinually th c y n ing your n a a c I e k t; li s just keep learn no be d is n ter. As a a re e le h b T . m Of course, s y hu a Grubmas roces ta g s p in g e to n b t lo t n fe u a lan li o rt b I have to p should be a ssionate a g. It’s impo a re in p e h th g e w in , m e o ip b s h e ve at leaders continu ch of my and impro is is why I e time, like eeds of ea h m n T a . s p ry u e ta it th ie d t p a e e t and skills to ke anagemen rding to th other skills o m c rn c e a a m le s ti d o o d ls r, I a o learne rchase fo grubmaste fty and pu finally, I als ri d th n A e . b ts to u t fellow sco the budge xt of zation. in the conte h it w e task prioriti m only help lated into f does not asily trans e ie h e C b t o u o ls c a ting, Being a S e skill can ing in Scou k th o t o u c b y t, m u o mp ht I had Thanks to a Scout ca in church. use I thoug a s c a e h b c h u s rc , u s h of my other area ch in the c ing a few n rv ra e b s e ly ic n rv o se lso helped ved from I joined the Scouting a tions. I mo . a le c p fi li o a e u p q f o which adequate g hundreds work with, I in le rv p e o s e p to rs ch. the rvice bran scoutmaste e along with s t e g g in d k n o a o erate hurch’s c mates. me to coop h my team ed to my c it li p w p a rk I o t w a wh for me to is exactly pretty easy is it , g in rk While wo



living in s

Hailing from Cincinnati, Ohio, Soham Basu has always been captivated by the interplay of cultures, places, and languages. As the child of immigrant parents from India, he experienced the contrasting struggle of preserving his Bengali heritage while blending into his Midwestern American surroundings. His passion for understanding diverse cultures led him to study South Asian history and foreign policy as an undergraduate at Dartmouth College and immerse himself in the region’s rich tapestry. Between 2019 and 2020, Soham lived in Lucknow and New Delhi as a Boren Scholar. During his time in India, Soham dedicated himself to learning Urdu, further expanding his linguistic repertoire. After working for two years at a start-up focused on US-China economic relations, Soham embarked on an extraordinary opportunity, enrolling at Yale University for a postgraduate degree as part of the Department of State’s Pickering Fellowship. This prestigious fellowship not only offered academic enrichment but also provided Soham with an internship at the US Embassy in Singapore. Inspired by Singapore’s remarkable development, political and economic model, and its ability to embrace and harmonize different cultures while maintaining a strong national identity, Soham found himself in awe. He was particularly impressed by Singapore’s housing policies and its significant investment in education, recognizing the nation’s commitment to its people’s wellbeing and development. Throughout his stay in Singapore, Soham had the chance to indulge in the vibrant local culinary scene. His favorite dish? Roti John, a savory delight at the hawker center in Newton. With his enriching experience in Singapore, Soham will return to Yale University to complete his studies,

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singapore

Humans of The Embassy Soham Basu, Pickering Fellow

armed with a newfound perspective and a deeper understanding of the complexities of international relations and diplomacy. His time as a Pickering Fellow and his internship at the US Embassy have allowed him to put theory into practice, witnessing firsthand how diplomacy operates on the ground at events like the Shangri-La Dialogue. As he looks ahead, Soham eagerly awaits the next chapter of his journey. Once he completes his studies, he will undergo rigorous training at the State Department, honing his skills and knowledge to become a fully-fledged diplomat. With his remarkable dedication, cultural sensitivity, and passion for diplomacy, Soham is poised to make a meaningful impact on the global stage. Soham Basu’s story is one of exploration, cultural exchange, and embracing the power of diversity. Through his experiences, he epitomizes the spirit of diplomacy and the pursuit of building bridges across nations. We eagerly anticipate his remarkable contributions as he continues his journey of fostering understanding and cultivating positive change in the world.

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Let’s play together! Practical reasons for playdates By Cara D’Avanzo

If you’re a parent who avoids scheduling playdates, focus on the positives and get the kids playing! The humble playdate is one of the best ways to help children develop the social competence so crucial at school and in life! A parent-scheduled playtime for two or more children, the playdate is a great opportunity for kids to work on skills that will smooth their entry to formal schooling, whether at the preschool or primary school level. Here are five top benefits of playdates for young children. Remember, each of these skills takes years to develop—but every playdate is an opportunity for improvement!

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1. Making friends: Practice makes perfect, and that’s undoubtedly true of making friends! Playdates are opportunities for children to learn “what works” when interacting with others. Tip: Let the kids work things out for themselves, but feel free to step in if they seem stuck. Afterward, chat with your child about how things went. 2. Sharing: Playdates often revolve around toys and food, which means they’re great times to work on sharing! Most kids are pretty willing to share, but may forget in the fun of the moment. Tip: Start with a reminder that everyone must have equal access to things everyone wants. Then, keep an eye (or ear) out for disagreements and help keep things fair if necessary. 3. Expressing feelings: It’s vital that kids be able to express their feelings — not only will this skill help them solve problems, but it will also help them develop empathy, an important trait in our complex world.

4. Speaking and listening: Communication is at the heart of human interaction. While different children have different personalities, playdates can teach both the garrulous and the quiet to communicate more effectively. Tip: Get the kids chatting with some openended questions. Keep an ear out for the chatterbox or the silent child — gently encourage the former to listen more and the latter to join in. 5. Accepting differences: Each child is unique and deserves to be accepted as such. Young children are often very accepting, but can also repeat statements they’ve heard elsewhere without understanding that they may be hurtful. Tip: If you hear judgmental comments like “boys don’t like dolls” or “anyone who doesn’t like ice cream is weird,” immediately (though gently) state that this is not actually the case and we’re all different — which is why playdates with different people are so cool!

Tip: A simple check-in with the kids can help them name and discuss what they are feeling. This also demonstrates that sharing your feelings can help everyone be happier together!

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HEAD SPACE Welcome to the Head Space column, where we’ll discuss all matters related to mental health and how it relates to our lives here in Singapore. By Andrea McKenna Brankin.

How to Support Friends Who Are Not So Into the Holidays Holidays are a time for joy. But not for everyone. While many enjoy the festive season by meeting and celebrating with friends and family, some people find the holidays depressing, lonely, and heartbreaking. It can be hard to understand this from a balanced mental perspective. But those of us on the spectrum of anxiety, depression, other mental challenges, or even just loneliness feel this season’s losses deeper than most. People who feel sad or isolated during holidays may have had a death in the family of a close relative or pet. Or it could be another type of loss, maybe a job or a friend moved away. There are also issues of trauma, where maybe having the family all together brought about violence, yelling, or any other kinds of family drama. Not everyone had joy at this time of year.

photos, the toasts, the meals, the singing, and things that are group activities may be painful memories because they trigger discourse. Try feeling the feelings. Apart from general empathy, many people wonder what to do and say around someone negatively affected by the holidays. Here are some suggestions.

If it's hard to imagine this, try to use your WHAT TO SAY: Sometimes, it's not what empathy to feel what that person may be you say; it’s what you hear. Ask the person feeling. If you lost your Dad or your beloved dog, you would miss them during celebratory if they want to talk about anything. Have a times when they were always with you. The coffee. Chat on WhatsApp. Ask them how

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Specifically, about the loss of a parent, the kids may be missing out if the surviving parent can't do the holidays. Ask the kids over to celebrate so they can still feel like kids during the fun season. Send a gift letting them know you are thinking of them. Put a dinner plate or cookies together and send it over in a Grab. Or have flowers delivered. It's always nice to give gifts, especially if they feel and really listen without judgment. the person wants to avoid seeing anyone. If you don't know how to respond, say things like, "I hear you, and I'm listening. Tell me Whatever you decide to do, support these more." people. I hope you will hold space in your heart for those who suffer this time of year. Try not to offer too much advice, especially Sometimes, the most meaningful thing is your own experience. It doesn't always help. to honor their feelings, send them good People often feel alone, but minimizing their thoughts, and then enjoy the holidays in your feelings is never good. You can also repeat own ways. what they say, which validates them, such as, "I see that you miss your dog, and you're really heartbroken." Or maybe it's deep trauma. You can say, "I hear you that holiday parties caused fights and abusive behavior. These must not be good memories." Believe me, it's enough. WHAT TO DO: Invite them over. Try to include people who have had a loss or may appear down about the holidays. Loneliness is one of the biggest mental health problems in the world. Having said that, don't push them if they are reluctant. Just ensure they know you are there for them and leave it up to them to attend. This could be a coffee, a drink, or a family party. You have to read the room and see what they can tolerate, groups or individuals. If you are not sure, ask!


Coming Soon!

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Meet Kalliope Coplin Lead singer of 10.Seconds, our George Washington Ball band

Kalliope is one of the best-known vocalists in Southeast Asia. Fronting the 10.seconds band for more than 15 years, she has taken the stage throughout the region – Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia, Vietnam, China, and, of course, Singapore. You may have even spotted her at the George Washington Ball or the Fourth of July celebrations. But she wasn’t always filling dancefloors. “I’ve been in Singapore for coming on 22 years now, and it’s been a wild ride! When I arrived, I was an international school teacher and a closet singer, but somewhere along the line, these switched, and I’m now a university lecturer in education on the side and an entertainer, vocalist, and coach full-time!”


Q: Did you always want to sing and perform? K: Well, yes and no. I have always loved music and loved to sing. I deeply felt music and lyrics and desperately wanted to do it. But I had no confidence. I didn’t think I had what it took. So, I hid my passion away. I used to lock myself in my room, turn off the light, and listen to everyone from Freddie Mercury and Tina Turner to Barbara Streisand and Whitney Houston, wondering what made them great and trying to figure out how I could make my voice do some of those things. Listen to Barbara Streisand’s last note in “Evergreen.” How does she hold it so long?! Q: What changed? K: I took a chance. I chose to give it a go - I didn’t want to wake up in 50 years wondering what could have been. In the process, I discovered how positive it made me feel and how freeing and fun it was. I feel very passionate about that now – singing for health!

Q: What does ‘singing for health’ mean? K: So many things! Singing can be transformative! It can promote oxygen intake, boost the immune system, improve posture, reduce stress, and enhance linguistic ability. Singing also supports and promotes mental health, confidence, and overall wellbeing. For example, one of my clients set a goal to improve her presence and speaking confidence as she must deliver workshops throughout the year. She used to be terrified, but now she messages me after a workshop on such a high. It’s incredibly rewarding to see growth. Over the last few years, Kalliope has been particularly interested in the intricate pathways that connect the voice, health, and wellbeing. “Singing and music should be joyful!” she announces enthusiastically. With certifications in vocal health, neuroscience and voice, psychology, education, and almost two decades of

performance experience, she coaches privately. She is now embarking on bringing music and voice into the corporate and team-building space. “There is a ton of evidence to support the health and wellness benefits of singing, particularly group singing: the positive effects of breathwork, increased social bonding, reduction in stress hormones, and the release of happy hormones! Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could harness that both socially and in the workplace!” Kalliope and her partner at Band on the Run Entertainment, Simon, have exciting new ideas for social and corporate contexts, but don’t miss Kalliope and the 10.seconds band at GWB 2024! “We’re so excited to be at the George Washington Ball again in 2024! It’s an amazing night with fantastic people partying and dancing the night away. It’s truly the perfect example of people from all over celebrating, engaging, and bonding through music!”

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(Christmas in Singapore Whether you’ll be in Singapore for Christmas or want to get into the holiday spirit before heading out, there’s plenty of festive fun to be had in the Lion City. If you’re heading out of town for the holidays, leave yourself some extra time and check out the Christmas displays at Jewel Changi Airport.

There are also plenty of festive displays all around town. You could go mall-hopping and check out the decorations. Christmas on a Great Street, the annual lights and decorations along Orchard Road, are always worth the trip. Join AAS on a boozy bus tour on December 1, ending at SOS bar!

In the mood for a dose of winter? Check out the snow slide, snow playground, and other cool attractions at Snow City. For something that doesn’t require donning snow gear, check out the malls around Orchard, where there are often regularly timed “snow” showers (bubbles) to frolic in. Tanglin Mall’s avalanche is always a hit with kids.

The Flower Dome at Gardens by the Bay never fails to wow with its beautiful displays to celebrate the holidays. Christmas Wonderland also returns to Gardens by the Bay, with light displays, carnival games, carols, bubble “snow” and more.

However you like to celebrate Christmas, there’s surely something for you to do here in Singapore! If it’s a visit with the big guy you’re looking for, Happy Holidays! what better way to see him than to bring him to you at home? Book a personal visit from Santa with Newton Show. Or opt for a virtual visit with Portable North Pole. Be sure to join AAS for our annual Toys for Tots celebration, where Santa will surely make an appearance!

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ADVERTORIAL

Heartwarming Holiday Traditions in Singapore From left: Sergej, Christine, Ellie, Uma and Igor

In a world with diverse cultures and traditions, families all celebrate the holidays differently, oftentimes continuing old customs and creating new traditions along the way. Christine Agertoft, who is a Member of The American Club, shares how she and her family make the holiday season special and meaningful even when they are miles away from their hometown. Please tell us a bit about you and your family. We are a mixed-culture family. I’m Danish, while my husband Sergej was born in Ukraine but moved to Germany as a child. We have three children, Igor (9), Ellie (5), and Uma (3). This is our second time in Singapore and combined we have been here nearly seven years. What made you and your family decide to relocate to Singapore? Our first stint in Singapore was purely for the adventure. We moved around Europe when we first met but had been in Copenhagen, Denmark for many years by then. The second time was more deliberate. We missed Singapore. What made you and your family decide to join The American Club? We joined at the end of the pandemic when there were still travel restrictions and we were dreading the long summer school holiday in Singapore. The American Club definitely saved the summer. What are your favorite holiday traditions? Our holiday traditions are mainly Danish. They are very much centered around the concept of “hygge”. Hygge is about creating small family moments together. As an example, we make an advent wreath with four candles about a month before Christmas Eve, and the four Sundays before Christmas Eve we sit down together, eat something sweet, and light one of the candles. The sum of all those small moments of making the wreath, crafting the Christmas tree decorations together, writing letters to loved ones, and making sweets together is what makes Christmas for us. It’s a month of looking inward and appreciating what you have.

Join The American Club Community Be part of the diverse, close-knit and vibrant community at The American Club. It is a space where Americans, Singaporeans and the international community can congregate and socialize. It is a center of cultural activities for Americans and Canadians, where families proudly call their home away from home. 36 LIVING IN SINGAPORE

How do you typically celebrate the holidays with your family? We celebrate Christmas on the eve of Christmas, the 24th of December. At noon, we eat a special sweet rice porridge containing one whole almond. The one who finds the almond gets the prize. Then we place the gifts under the tree, cook, and have dinner. After dinner, the gifts are distributed, and everyone takes turns opening a gift. Then total chaos and bedtime. Are there any specific foods or drinks that you associate with the holiday season? Risengrød (rice pudding with cinnamon, butter and a special sweet beer brewed on caramel and chocolate), æbleskiver (a ball-shaped pancake served with powder sugar and jam), havregrynskugler (oatmeal and cocoa powder balls that were first invented during World War II as a substitute for chocolate), konfekt (homemade sweets made of chocolate, marzipan, nuts and dried fruits), brunede kartofler (caramelized potatoes) and flæskesteg (Danish roast pork). No one misses snaps – typically Aquavit – but that would traditionally be included in a Danish Christmas celebration.

Making Danish sweets for Christmas

What do you like best during the festive season at The American Club? Since we don’t have family in Singapore, we appreciate the sense of community that the Club offers – especially around Christmas. Are there any cultural aspects to your holiday celebrations that you would like to share? Being in Singapore, we have added some new traditions. The kids love having their pictures taken with Santa at The American Club since Santa is a very rare sight in Denmark.

Decorating the Christmas tree as a family

Are there any holiday traditions that you would like to pass on to your children and hope that they pass on to their children? Most of all, we hope they pass on the tradition of slowing down and appreciating what they have. We will also pass them some special decorative items to hang on their Christmas tree when they grow up. One of these is Christmas baubles decorated in Peranakan style for them to remember Singapore wherever they end up. Explore the Club by booking a tour here. The American Club 10 Claymore Hill, Singapore 229573 www.amclub.org.sg @AmericanClubSingapore

The kids’ favorite: A photo with Santa at The American Club


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Season of Giving (and Giving Back) By Faith Chanda

One holiday tradition for many people is giving back. Most of the charities and social enterprises below are open to volunteers, but they also have online and/or brick-and-mortar shops where at least part of the proceeds financially support their cause. Shopping on these sites means a win-win-win – the organization receives muchneeded funding, you feel good about supporting them, and the recipient knows they’ve gotten more than just a tangible gift. We’ve chosen some lesser-known businesses to illustrate the depth and breadth of organizations doing good work in Singapore. Our resources don’t lend themselves to thoroughly vetting these organizations. While we are unaware of any issues or complaints, as always, please proceed with caution.

like branded NETS Flashpay cards and trolley coin keychains. Animal Lovers League doesn’t have a store, but partners with several organizations that help raise funds or support animal causes in Singapore by selling food and other pet-related items. Books Beyond Borders has a shop on Erskine Road and is in the process of setting up online (at the time of this writing). Sales benefit education for girls in Nepal.

Before you head out to the usual stores for your holiday shopping, check out some of these shops for great gifts for friends and family. If you’ve been keeping up with AAS activities, you know we regularly organize groups to volunteer at the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, better known as Caregiving Welfare Association sell quaint ACRES. But did you know they also have an terrariums and other handicrafts to support online shop? You can purchase items like t-shirts quality-of-life initiatives for Singapore’s elderly. and shawls or purchase a one-year sponsorship that funds the care of a group of animals housed Cloop reduces textile waste by reselling, at ACRES. donating, reusing, or recycling donated clothing. Action for Singapore Dogs’ 2024 calendar is Club Rainbow benefits children with chronic on sale for $10, and they also sell practical gifts illnesses and their families. They have an annual


The Art Faculty features unique designs by differently-abled artists, allowing them to earn money for their work. There’s a wide variety of Movement for the Intellectually Disabled items, price points, and even the ability to create (MINDS) believes “that every individual with your own gift basket. special needs has innate talents and strengths to be nurtured” and offers handmade crafts and packaged baked goods from MINDS Kitchen. sale that features items like a travel organizer set and gadgets like a personal selfie light.

The Cat Welfare Society’s Cat Mama Shop offers a range of locally-themed toys for cats and humans.

Project Dignity aims to provide the The Breast Cancer Foundation offers a “disabled and disadvantaged” with dignity through vocational training and employment collection of pink and colorful items that support opportunities. In addition to hawker stalls called their work. Dignity Kitchen, they also sell books under the The Orangutan Foundation International name Dignity Mama. isn’t local to Singapore, but it does benefit the Save Our Street Dogs (SOSD) offers primarily beloved orangutans of Indonesia and fight for dog accessories, which fund their efforts on ecological causes like palm oil production. behalf of Singapore’s many strays. The Seed Basket’s Riau Candle Co. is a “fair The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty trade social enterprise that sees 100% of the to Animals (SPCA) shop features items for pets, profits from each candle purchased going to including grooming products and accessories, charity.” and for humans, such as handmade soaps and TOUCH Community Services’ brand Journey candles. markets the work of more than 70 artists with SPD Artisan Collab started as a bookbindery various disabilities, offering a large catalog of and is best known for hand-bound journals, products from tableware to luggage tags. which can also be personalized. YWCA offers pieces by artist Pauline Lao are for sale and textile items like runners and bags.


Looking for other ways to support good causes? Grab a bite at one of several locations of Professor Brawn Café, a unique social enterprise whose goal is to develop a scalable employment model for inclusive workplaces. Give the gift of education to your helper with a gift card for financial management courses at AIDHA. These organizations offer unique adoption and sponsorship opportunities: While most organizations are unlikely to turn down volunteers during the holidays, they also need help throughout the year. Here are some Shelter other ways to get involved with meaningful causes:

Habitat for Humanity Singapore: Sew Much Love blanket project Oasis Second Chance Animal (OSCAS): Sponsor-a-dog scheme

Action for AIDS

Babes Pregnancy Crisis Support

Beyond Social Services

Blessings in a Bag

The Children’s Society

Disabled People’s Association

Highpoint Community Services Association (HCSA)

Hope Centre

It’s Raining Raincoats

Singapore Council of Women’s Organizations supports various efforts toward gender equality, funded in part through their New2You Thrift Shop.

National Library Board

Riding for the Disabled Association

Ronald McDonald House Charities

Red Cross can use your support by shopping in person. Follow the link above for details.

Society for the Aged Sick

Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2)

The SiloAm Thrift Store raises money for SiloamXperience Outreach, which seeks to improve living standards for the underprivileged globally. In Singapore, they allow needy clients and ex-offenders to shop for free and use the stores as a platform to mentor and train underserved youth.

Workforce Singapore

SDI Academy: Upskill courses for migrants and refugees Seastainable: Carbon offset, or Bali reef restoration The Barkery: For the Shelters project World Wildlife Federation: Wildlife Protector sponsorship Gift shopping at a thrift store – why not? Many times, brand-new items (with tags or in original packaging) can be found at stunningly low prices.


MAKE YOUR DONATIONS MORE IMPACTFUL BY RICHARD HARTUNG

Donating to a worthy cause seems easy. Many people simply give to a charity that asks, give where they gave before, or talk with friends. By being more strategic with your money, though, you can make sure your donation has more impact, whether small or large. Strategic Giving It is indeed easy to give to charities you know or friends recommend. Ad hoc donations without researching and deciding on your strategic purpose may have less impact or not fully align with your values. Starting with a clear giving strategy can enhance the impact of your giving, the Singapore EDB observes. It is better to clarify your goals before considering any donation by considering what you want to change, how much effort you want to put in, the amount you wish to give, and the means you have to achieve them. While data, best practices, and tools are available,

philanthropy is inherently personal and driven by passions and interests. Along with giving to causes you support, it is important to ensure that the organization you donate to is reputable. “Better Ask, Better Check, Give Better,” the Charity Portal suggests. You can ask for details such as how your donation will be used, who the beneficiaries are, and how much of your donation goes to the beneficiary. Not being able to get this basic information may be a red flag. You can also verify that the beneficiary is a registered charity or provides information to the Commissioner of Charities.

If you need advice, a variety of organizations can assist. Asia Community Foundation, for instance, says it provides donors with support and expertise to make confident and purposeful giving decisions. Finding the Right Organization for Your Philanthropy One easy way to find reputable organizations to donate to is to use giving.sg. Giving, part of the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC), lists more than 500 non-profits and categorizes them into “causes.” You can select the type of organization, look for ones in that category, click on ones of interest to “learn


more,” and donate directly once you have found an impactful organization that aligns with your goals. You can usually also receive a tax benefit. An alternative for people who want to make a more significant donation is to set up a Donor Advised Fund (DAF). You can establish a fund with a donation and use the money to make future charity gifts. Along with the administrative services that the manager provides, you can get a tax deduction for your donation even though you’ll give funds to charities later. The first DAF manager in Singapore, and perhaps the most easily accessible one, is the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS), established in 2008. CFS CEO Catherine Loh said, “We aim to inspire and enable strategic philanthropy.” Donors can enjoy an upfront tax deduction when they make their contribution and disburse grants over time. CFS takes care of the administrative work and provides advisory and grant-making services. “We work with the donors to understand their philanthropic goals,” Loh said, “and help them achieve their objectives. As needs become more complex, we

aspire to help our donors to make the leap from ad hoc reactive charitable giving to strategic philanthropy, which has clear goals and evidence-informed plans and attempts to tackle the roots of complex problems.” CFS scans Singapore’s charity sector to find worthy programs to fund, conducts due diligence, and helps donors disburse grants to charities, social enterprises, or ground-up groups. Measure the Impact To ensure your donation has the intended impact, it is important to assess the results of what the charity actually does. You can do it yourself, or a DAF such as CFS can help with impact measurement. The Tan Chin Tuan Foundation, one of the early movers in impact measurement, provides insights on what to measure. It explains that a donation is a social investment, and

each gift should generate a social return to be effective. “The outcome would answer questions such as ‘How far has this donation gone to help, change, or improve society?’ and ‘Can the social investment be given differently to achieve a better outcome?’” Rather than just looking at how many people show up for events, for instance, you can look at how the organization changes lives, how it is a catalyst for change in a particular sector, whether it has a long-term impact or, organizes events with limited impact, and other outcomes. If they don’t provide information, it may be preferable to look for other beneficiaries. There is plenty of need in Singapore. By determining your strategy, finding the right beneficiary, and measuring what you achieve, you can ensure you have the intended impact.


Deepavali:

Festival of Lights As one of the major cultural festivals in Singapore, Deepavali (also known as “Diwali” or the “Festival of Lights”) is a celebration that marks the triumph of good over evil.

By Melinda Murphy

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For more than 30 years now, Little India has gone all out for the Festival of Lights which means the festival is not only significant to the Hindu community here, but all of Singapore. The spectacular event is organized by the Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association (LISHA). They start planning in February, hoping to make each year more special than the last. This year's light-up in Little India showcases Radha and Krishna as the centre piece. Most Southern Indian Hindus celebrate Deepavali as the day that Lord Krishna defeated the demon, Narakasura. Radha is known to be his consort and constant companion. Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong attended the inauguration ceremony of the lighting of the Deepavali lights.


"Deepavali symbolizes the glory of light against darkness, science against ignorance and good subdues evil. The values and principles that are firmly held by Hindus when welcoming Deepavali such as discipline, low self-esteem, opposite attitudes are also shared by adherents of other religions and communities in Singapore. Therefore, Deepavali is a celebration for friends and neighbors of all races and religions to gather," said Mr. Wong. And he’s right: with an expected five million visitors, the Deepavali celebrations really do bring people together across race and religion. Two roads in Little India are decorated: 42 sets of lights adorn Serangoon Road and

another 12 sets grace Race Course Road for a total of 54 sets. All told, there are about a million LED bulbs, used in seven color combinations. The result is a true feast for the senses. In addition to the lights, there is a massive bazaar, a true shopper’s paradise filled with everything you can imagine. The food bazaar will host roughly 25 vendors. A stroll through Little India this time of year can do wonders for the soul. Interesting tidbit? Singapore’s Little India is the only light up of its kind in the world. Rajakumar Chandra is the Senior Advisor to LISHA and former chairman for 15 years. He’s very proud that LISHA strives to bring the magic of India to the people in Asia. “One nine-year-old boy from

Singapore went to India with his family. He turned around to his dad and said, ‘Dad, this place is just like Little India in Singapore!’ I just love that!” In 2023, Deepavali falls on November 12, but it is celebrated for almost two months. This year’s light up was on September 30 and the lights will stay up until December 3. The light up ceremony was attended by DPM Wong, and the High Commissioners from Australia, Bangladesh, India, New Zealand, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, as well as members of Parliament. Do yourself a favor, and be sure to venture out to Little India to experience the magic of Deepavali yourself.

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Songkran in Thailand: A Water Festival to Remember By Adam Klann

The first time I was in Bangkok for the month of April, I noticed how blazingly hot and humid it had become. Summer had already begun, seemingly earlier than I was accustomed to. As the days passed, everyone started discussing the upcoming Songkran holiday. “Are you going anywhere for Songkran? No? Make sure to wear something that can get wet when you go outside!” I laughed it off until I saw it for myself walking down the street: people accumulating in groups, kitted out with bright flower print shirts and white clay paste on their faces, leading attack squads on unsuspecting passersby. No one was safe. People getting their groceries would get sabotaged by a young kid with a squirt gun that appeared out of nowhere; drive-by trucks that held large barrels of ice water would festoon a lawyer in their complete business suit with a hearty helping of frozen refreshment. For the most part, after their initial shock, each of the ‘victims’ would just turn around and give a big smile and wave. That’s the Thai way! It can only happen during Songkran, also known as the Thai New Year. It is one of Thailand's most vibrant and widely celebrated festivals. Derived from the Sanskrit word Sankranti, it signifies the astrological passage of the sun from one sign of the zodiac to another, marking a New Year in the Thai Buddhist calendar. This mid-April holiday marks the end of the dry season and the

beginning of the rainy season in Thailand. It celebrates the transition from the old to the new and is a time for renewal, both spiritually and physically.

The Water Festival From its smaller and more modest beginnings, Songkran has evolved into a nationwide water fight where people from all walks of life come together to splash water on each other in the streets. The act of pouring or spraying water is a fun and refreshing way to beat that scorching April heat and carries a deep symbolic meaning with it.

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To those celebrating for more spiritual reasons, water symbolizes purity and cleansing. It ‘washes away’ one's sins and bad luck. In that spirit of renewal, many Thais take the opportunity to do some ‘spring cleaning’ of their homes during this period. So that truck with the ice water? When someone pours a bucket of water over your head during Songkran, it's not just a playful gesture; it's a blessing for a fresh start!

deeply rooted in customs and traditions that pay respect to elders and ancestors. People will visit temples and make food offerings to Buddhist monks. They will perform the

Rod Nam Dum Hua ritual, where young people pour scented water into the hands of their elders as a sign of respect and to seek their blessings.

Traditions and Customs Aside from the water fights, Songkran is a festival

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Another essential tradition is building sand pagodas or chedis. People create intricate sand sculptures at temples to earn merit and commemorate the dead. The idea is that each time one visits a temple, they leave with some sand in their shoes. In other words, this is a time for people to return that sand to the temple. You’ll find entire cities like Bangkok missing their regular log jam of traffic as people flock to their hometowns to celebrate together with their extended families. They come together to pay their respects at temples, visit relatives, and enjoy festive meals. This sense of togetherness and unity is a core element of Songkran, reinforcing the importance of family and community in Thai culture.

Must-Visit Songkran Destinations So, where will you go to celebrate Songkran? In Bangkok, the capital city celebrates Songkran with giant water fights along Khao San Road and Silom Road. For a more traditional experience, visit the temples, such as Wat Pho or Wat Arun, where you can participate in rituals like pouring scented water on Buddha statues. In Chiang Mai, famous for its unique Songkran procession, don't miss the Miss Songkran beauty contest and the sand pagoda-building tradition at Wat Phra Singh. Or, head to Phuket for a relaxed

Songkran celebration by the beach. Here, you can experience a more tourist-friendly and family-oriented atmosphere.


Thinking of visiting Thailand during the Songkran holiday? Here are some tips to prepare: 1. Dress Appropriately: Expect to get wet, so wear clothes you don't mind getting soaked. Many locals wear colorful Hawaiian-style shirts during Songkran, adding to the festive atmosphere. 2. Waterproofing: Protect your belongings by sealing them in waterproof bags. Ziplock bags are great for phones, wallets, and other essentials. 3. Sun Protection: Thailand's April sun can be scorching. Apply sunscreen generously and wear a hat and sunglasses. 4. Footwear: Wear closed-toe shoes or sandals that provide good traction, as the streets can get slippery. 5. Respect Local Customs: While Songkran is all about fun, remember it also has deep cultural roots. Be respectful when approaching elders and participating in traditional customs. 6. Ask Permission: Despite my earlier experience of seeing locals in all forms of dress getting soaked, suggesting otherwise, participants should ask for permission before splashing water on someone. Remember that not everyone may want to participate! Songkran was put on hold for a few years due to the recent pandemic but has slowly opened up again to street celebrations and visiting tourists. The combination of water fights, ancient rituals, and heartfelt customs makes Songkran a unique and unforgettable experience for both locals and visitors. So, if you ever find yourself in Thailand around April 13-15, be prepared to get wet, have fun, and celebrate the craziness of Songkran. It's a holiday like no other – a true reflection of Thailand's rich culture and the spirit of renewal that defines the vibrant nation.

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The Colors of Singapore: The Annual Rituals and Festivals on the Island By Asif R. Chowdhury During various times of the year, parts of Singapore are lit up in bright lights and brilliant colors, celebrating the multicultural and multifaith heritage of the city-state. With a population of about six million people, cultural and religious diversity is one of the key hallmarks of Singapore. Regarding ethnicity, about 75% of the population is Chinese, 14% Malay, and 9% Indian, and the balance consists of various other groups of people from different parts of the world. The country is equally diverse from its religious standpoint – about 31% of the population is Buddhist, 19% Christian, 16% Muslim, 5% Hindu, and less than 1% of the population is Sikh. In comparison, 20% of the people do not identify with any particular religion (based on 2020 census data). The country’s true hallmark lies in how all these people from different cultures, religions, traditions, and ethnicities peacefully coexist on this tiny island. The dates of most of the key religious celebrations are part of national government holidays. Eight of the eleven public holidays are related to various religions and cultures. Just go through the list of the official holidays in the calendar year to get a feel for these celebrations of diversity. Many festivals and celebrations are rooted in the different

religions, while some are more cultural. The following section provides a list and a brief description of some of the more meaningful, fun, and colorful festivals celebrated in Singapore. New Year’s Day: The year starts with the countdown leading to the New Year, followed by a mesmerizing fireworks display across the island. As the clock strikes midnight on the first day of January, the new year is welcomed with a bang. The best and most well-known public event takes place by the waterfront: The Marina Bay Singapore Countdown and Fireworks. There are also pockets of festivities in all the popular spots, such as Clarke Quay, the famous shopping strip of Orchard Road, Siloso Beach Party at Sentosa Island, and Boat Quay, as well as in other popular party spots in Singapore.


Thaipusam: Usually observed in February, Thaipusam is an annual Hindu festival celebrated in honor of the Hindu god Lord Murugan, also known as Lord Subramaniam, who signifies power, youth, virtue and is known as the demolisher of evil. Thai is a month in the Tamil calendar, and Pusam is the name of a star. During the month of Thai, the Pusam star is at its highest point in the sky. Thus, the Thaipusam festival is celebrated during the full moon day. Thaipusam is observed after weeks of a strict vegetarian diet. On this day, the local Hindu Tamil community gathers for this annual two-day festival, where over 50,000 people

crowd the streets of Singapore in a colorful and lively procession. Hindu devotees seek blessings, offer gratitude, and fulfill their dutiful vows by carrying milk pots that symbolize fertility and abundance and various colorful altars. The most pious devotees pierce their bodies and tongues with steel skewers, rods, and hundreds of needles, which are tethered to kavadi, a structure which can weigh up to 30kg, which they carry. This arduous 4.5-kilometer, barefoot walk of faith stretches from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple to Sri Thendayuthapani Temple. They are usually cheered on by close friends and families, who walk together with them while carrying palkudam (devotional milk pots). It is a spectacle to see and experience and onlookers are welcome. Little India comes alive during the festival, offering many hawker food stalls along Serangoon Road and Tank Road. Several hawker stalls are on the Michelin Guide’s Bib Gourmand list, and some have even been awarded the prestigious Michelin Star, which is definitely gourmet food at very reasonable prices.


Chinese New Year: The Lunar New Year is among the most anticipated celebrations and joyous occasions for the local Chinese community. It signifies the beginning of the Chinese Lunar Calendar. Also known as the Spring Festival in Singapore, it typically falls between the end of January and the beginning of March. The country gets into a joyous mood as almost all of Singapore is gorgeously decorated with red and golden colors, many Chinese lanterns, and massive light displays. Complementing that dazzling sight of kaleidoscopic color is the fragrant smell of many traditional Chinese snacks and treats. The epitome of the celebration occurs in the ethnic quarter of Chinatown, which comes to life with all kinds of celebrations, including the lion and dragon dances. It is a unique experience to navigate through the crowded streets of Chinatown in the weeks leading up to the Chinese New Year. Many companies and shops celebrate by having their own lion dance to get the new year’s blessing. The festivities run for 15 days. Traditionally, it is time for families to get together, and many travel overseas to be with their loved ones. Family and friends exchange hongbao (gifts of

money in red envelopes), small Mandarin trees, and oranges to signify good fortune. One of the more Singaporean traditions known as lo hei, also known as yu sheng, is a key highlight of the season where families, friends, and colleagues come together to “toss up a good fortune” by literally using chopsticks to toss a mixture of thinly sliced raw fish and shredded vegetables, seasonings, and condiments – added one by one in a specific order. 2024 is the Year of the Dragon. The Chingay Festival is a massive and uniquely Singaporean street parade celebrating Chinese New Year that has evolved into an annual iconic event showcasing Singapore’s rich and unique multiethnic and cosmopolitan cultures. This year, the parade will be held on February 23 and 24.


Vesak Day: Buddhists in Singapore and around the world honor this day to commemorate the birth, enlightenment, and death of Buddha. Celebrated on the full moon day towards the end of May, the faithful come together to renew their resolution to lead a life of humility, morality, and simplicity to follow in the path of Buddha’s teachings. Vesak’s festivities start as the sun rises with devotees congregating at temples with offerings of flowers, candles, and joss sticks to represent the transient and ephemeral nature of life while the more devout perform a “Three Steps, One Bow” ritual to express repentance. Beautiful and peaceful candlelight processions also characterize Vesak Day through the streets and the ‘bathing’ of a Buddha statue, a must-see for locals and visitors alike. As the Buddhist community reflects on life, they perform good deeds by visiting elders in the hospitals, donating blood, and releasing caged animals to symbolize liberation.

Easter and Good Friday: A significant celebration for Christians worldwide to commemorate Jesus’ earthly demise, it is a public holiday in Singapore. Churches across the island offer various events, from meaningful sermons and friendly services to skits and

musical productions commemorating the pious occasion. Various local communities and clubs also organize popular cultural Easter Egg Hunt events, like the American Association which will be hosting a hunt at XCL American Academy on March 17, 2024. Hari Raya Puasa: Marking the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, the Muslim festival of Hari Raya Puasa, commonly known worldwide as Eid al-Fitr, is the most important holiday in the Islamic world. Muslims believe the sacred month of Ramadan to be the holiest month of the year. During this month, Muslims worldwide not only fast by abstaining from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset but also refrain from bad habits and thoughts as a commitment to purify the body and the soul. The end of the 30-day fasting marks the Hari Raya Puasa celebration. Local Muslims start the day by praying in the local mosques and spend the morning meeting with family, friends, and neighbors. They wear eye-catching traditional clothing and prepare for a lavish, home-cooked feast to enjoy together with family and friends. For non-observers, the days can be equally festive as all of Singapore will be buzzing with celebration and festivities in the form of lively night bazaars at Geylang Serai, where

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they sell delicious, traditional Malay snacks, ethnic trinkets, clothes, and jewelry. Colorful decorations adorning the streets, the bustling crowds, and exquisite cultural performances of Malay song and dance create a joyous atmosphere, which captivates many observers. The Hari Raya lights at Geylang Serai are one of the festival's biggest highlights. Hari Raya Haji: More widely known as Eid al-Adha, it is a very important Muslim festival where followers reflect on the story of God commanding Ibrahim to sacrifice his son, Ismail, which the prophet heeds. Of course, God intervened, allowing Ibrahim to offer a sheep instead at the last minute. Today, across the Muslim world, that sacrifice is commemorated on this holy day by sacrificing sheep, goats, cows, or camels. The ritual known as korban is an integral part of the festival and represents the Prophet Ibrahim’s faith and trust in God. Mosques around Singapore take part in the ritual where sheep or goats will be sacrificed during the Korban. One-third of the meat is given to people in need, and the rest is distributed among the family members of those who offered the animals for sacrifice. In Malay, Hari Raya Haji means the ‘end of the great Haj’ as the occasion also marks the end of the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, known as Haj.

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The day starts with Muslims across the island saying morning prayers in the local mosques, followed by the korban ritual. The rest of the day is spent meeting and spending time with family and friends, usually followed by a lavish mouthwatering dinner. National Day: Singapore’s Independence Day is a significant annual event on August 9. The celebration showcases national pride and patriotism as its diverse citizens from all walks of life come together to pay tribute to the founding of modern Singapore. It is a spectacular festival commemorating the country’s short but unique history, its courageous rise to independence in 1965, and becoming an economic powerhouse in the region. Many events and concerts are held across the island, but the most spectacular one is the National Day Parade, where boys and girls in uniform march in precision under a helicopter fly-past. This festival is witnessed by around 25,000 spectators each year and is held at the famous Marina Bay. Besides the parade, the highlights of National Day include the Presidential Gun Salute and the Grand Finale, a 45-minute performance followed by a stunning fireworks show that lights up the sky. Wearing red and white is strongly encouraged to represent the National Flag.


Mid-Autumn Festival: Also known as the Lantern Festival, the Chinese celebrate it during the full moon, which falls on the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the Chinese lunar calendar. It usually falls in late September or early October. The Mid-Autumn Festival is about family and is especially enjoyable for children as they play with colorful lanterns around their neighborhood. Family members usually gather outside under the full moon to enjoy an evening of mooncakes, fruits, and tea. The mooncake, a traditional Chinese pastry eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival, is a hallmark of the occasion. Companies, shops, families, and friends exchange mooncakes as gifts during this season, which usually come in exquisite boxes. Every year, local bakeries and restaurants use this occasion to come up with creative twists to the traditional mooncake, infusing popular flavors such as durian, strawberry, and even truffles. A giant lantern is displayed in Chinatown throughout the month to mark this joyous occasion. Like the Chinese Lunar New Year, it is another good time to visit Chinatown and enjoy and experience the season’s exquisite sights, sounds, colors, and tastes.

day of Lord Rama Krishna’s victory over King Narakasura and his subsequent return to his kingdom, signifying the triumph of good over evil, light conquering darkness. Celebrations in Little India begin weeks ahead of time. Little India bursts into life with hundreds of meters of decorative lighting along the main thoroughfare, bazaars, and celebratory activities. The Hindu community across Singapore celebrates the festival, spreading joy and cheer. Devotees flock to the temples to offer their prayers. The bright lights, the scent of floral garlands and incense, the colorful stalls filled with traditional snacks, embroidered sari (traditional Indian womenswear), the dazzling display of gold jewelry, and thousands of bangles will likely create a sensory overload for the first-timers, but it is well worth the experience. This joyous festival revolves around the family and the community. The festival is also characterized by people visiting loved ones, paying respect at temples, lighting oil lamps, exchanging sweets, lighting sparklers, and partaking in family feasts and dinners. The oldest Hindu temple in Singapore, the Sri Mariamman Temple, also hosts a fiery spectacle during the week leading up to Deepavali. To watch thousands of devotees walk on burning charcoal as a tribute to the goddess Sri Drowpathai Amman is a sight one will not easily forget.

Deepavali: Also known as Diwali in India, this is the ‘festival of lights.’ Typically falling in October or November, it is the most significant festival of the local Hindu Indian community. Deepavali is a five-day festival representing the triumph of goodness over evil or light over darkness. In Hindu mythology, it marks the

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Christmas: For Singaporean Christians, the season brings families and communities together in churches for prayers and midnight masses. But it is also a joyous celebration for all Singaporeans as many streets and shopping malls are decorated in colorful lights while playing melodious Christmas songs and carols. With the favorite pastimes of Singaporeans being eating and shopping, this is the perfect season for them to indulge in what they like to do the most. Restaurants offer special Christmas menus for in-house dining and delivery, just as retail outlets lure shoppers with promotional sales. The best place to see the lights and decorations is along Orchard Road, with shopping malls and stores showcasing their themed decorations and Christmas trees, turning the entire street into a parade of lights. There are some spectacular Christmas Trees around the island, with the tallest one usually showcased at the Star Vista, which stands over 20 meters high. And Gardens by the Bay traditionally does a giant Christmas market and fair. Closer to home, AAS works with The American Club, the US Embassy and many American businesses to gather toys for less privileged children in our annual Toys for Tots drive.

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In Singapore, one can experience and learn about the celebrations, rituals, and festivals of different faiths and cultures without leaving the city-state. Being in Singapore, all the events are naturally well organized and well planned. It is highly recommended for locals, visitors, and expats alike to immerse in the delightful sights and sounds and indulge in the rich flavors and tastes offered during all these diverse festivities. For the newcomers, some of them may seem like an assault on the senses, but they all will indeed be well-worth and satisfying experiences.


Singapore's Other Festivals Aside from these more well-known festivities, several other celebrations occur throughout the year in Singapore. Some of them are briefly described below, and readers can find out more if any of them piques their interest. A beautiful four-day festival, Pongal is traditionally a harvest festival originating from South India, offering thanks to nature. It is celebrated at the beginning of Thai, the tenth Tamil month, usually mid-January. The deities are offered rice to thank them for a bountiful harvest. The main Pongal festival is at the bazaar at Campbell Lane, where local Indians can find their favorite goodies and buy offerings such as Indian sugar cane, ginger and turmeric plants, and devotional milk pots. The exuberant Singapore Dragon Boat Festival originated in China over two thousand years ago and is held in May-June. The dragon racing teams are cheered on with thundering drums, waving flags, and squeals of excitement by the spectators. It is held in the Bedok Reservoir and is another must-see for visitors. Be sure to root for the American Dragons! Singapore Arts Festival is also held midyear, around May-June, and lasts a month. Local talents and international participants dabble in theatre arts, public film screenings, street performances, musical performances, dances, and various visual arts displays.

Held in July, the Singapore Food Festival offers culinary delights, especially for the foodies. Eating is a national pastime here, and the festival highlights this Singaporean trait perfectly. The island offers excellent, reasonably authentic, mouthwatering food from all over the world, and this Food Festival takes it to the next level. Buddhists and Taoists celebrate the Hungry Ghost Festival on the 15th night of the 7th month of the Chinese calendar. It falls towards the end of August. It is believed that ghosts come out during this period. People visit the family graves during this period to meet the ancestors and deceased family members. The Singapore Night Festival (SNF) takes place on two weekends every August, where the top heritage sites are adorned with colorful lights. The SNF has a yearly theme, and artists and performers are chosen accordingly. The Singapore Grand Prix, held during September, is a perfect place to feel the rush and thrill and experience the deafening noise as the world-famous Formula One drivers navigate the city streets in their super-fast racing cars at over 200 miles per hour. It is a huge international ‘party’ event where fun goes on both on and off track. The championship race occurs through the city’s financial district, where streets are completely blocked off during the event.

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