How to celebrate cultural events in multicultural workplaces5 min read

Cultural events in Singapore

Cultural events are not a rare find in Singapore’s multiracial and multiethnic landscape. The country’s commitment to maintaining strong ties across the different races and religions that abound here is evident. Yet, demonstrating appreciation for the diversity and rich heritage of people does not have to be limited to community gatherings, including in the workplace. 

A Harvard Business Review article reported that companies who adopt a holistic approach to inherent diversity as well as acquired diversity show higher levels of innovation and inspiration. 

Hence, it holds that companies can, and should, encourage multicultural appreciation and practices. It instantly gives your company a competitive edge in an extremely globalised world. More importantly, it facilitates social cohesion and camaraderie that builds strong, long-lasting team bonds. 

Here, find out how to celebrate 4 of the major cultural events in Singapore in the workplace. 

1. Chinese New Year 

Dates: 12 & 13 February 2021

Chinese New Year is just around the corner. Admittedly, there will be certain restrictions this year on office celebrations and house visits. However, those who celebrate the holiday will likely still be looking forward to more cosy, intimate gatherings with loved ones, as well as enjoying the traditional snacks that are usually offered at this time of the year. 

  • Sometimes, Chinese owners and managers may give hongbao (literally ‘red packets’, containing money) to their staff to signify the prosperity and abundance that this yearly event symbolizes. 
  • While that may not be the custom for a lot of companies, another way to reign in the holiday is to decorate the office with symbols that signify luck, happiness and wealth. Common items include red lanterns, door couplets, paper cuttings, and even kumquat trees
  • What about WFH alternatives? Designate a fun dress code to the half-day of work before the holiday begins: those who attend meetings in red or orange-hued outfits add a touch of vibrancy to this season

Related: 5 ways Singaporean employers can train their fresh graduate hires for success

2. Good Friday (Easter)

Date: 2 April

Good Friday is primarily a religious holiday. It is commemorated by Christians around the death of Jesus. Easter is the Sunday on the week of Good Friday and generally describes the period of this religious event. It also marks the beginning of spring season and symbolises joy, hope and gratitude. 

  • Even for those who are not religious, the themes of renewal, growth, and gratefulness are relevant to all workers. Organizing a community service project is one way to bring meaning into this season. 
  • You can provide or make Easter snacks in teams: easy recipes include chocolate dipped fruit, fruit skewers, yogurt smoothies and carrot cake
  • Show gratitude: write thank you notes for team members or departments. Or, share thank you videos to your customers. Big budget or no, clients will appreciate its sincerity and thoughtfulness. 

3. Hari Raya Puasa

Date: 13 May 

Muslims celebrate this cultural event all over the world. Literally translating to ‘Day of Celebration’, it is not the Muslim New Year. Contrary to popular belief, it marks the end of the month of Ramadan, where Muslims fast and abstain from certain practices. 

Here’s what some local companies do to commemorate the important event for Muslim employees:

  • Maybank: Muslim staff can leave work half an hour earlier during the Ramadan (fasting) month, subject to operational leave of their departments. 
  • Royal Plaza on Scotts: The hotel managers hold mini-competitions as bonding activities and decorate the spaces for different departments with Hari Raya decor. 
  • Ramada Hotel: Sahur, or the meal consumed early in the morning before fasting, is specially prepared at their private dining lounge. What’s more, employees who partake are given breakfast priority, such that associates know to give way to Muslim employees during those specific timings. 
  • Physical festivities may not be possible with WFH or hybrid-working plans. Instead, consider realigning the work schedules and timings of those celebrating Hari Raya during the fasting month. 

Related: The 5 new digital marketing strategies in 2021

4. Deepavali (Diwali)

Date: 4 November

Deepavali, otherwise known as Diwali, is one of the biggest cultural events in Indian culture. It symbolises the conquest of good over evil. It’s also the biggest festival in India and in the country, and has a firm place in the workplace too. 

  • Of course, themed decorations in the office are appropriate. Diwali decor includes things like fresh flowers, garlands, lighted glass ornaments, and innovative rangolis. Creative ways to spice it up would be to make decorating a competition: whoever goes all out gets a special mention and a prize!
  • Play Tambola, also known as ‘Housie’ or ‘Indian Bingo’. 
  • LinkedIn also suggests setting aside a time for everyone to make sweet treats together. This could be a good way to take a break from the workday and let employees mingle with each other amidst the festive atmosphere.
  • Do a session of desk yoga. This is a small and easy activity for remote workers that calls to Indian culture and acknowledges its impact on our daily lives. 

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