Deepavali celebrations back in full swing after two years of Covid-19 restrictions

Retailers have seen booming business in the two weeks leading up to Deepavali. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Shoppers along Campbell Lane during last minute shopping for Deepavali celebrations in Little India, on Oct 23, 2022. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
People having their henna done at a Deepavali Fair along Serangoon Road in Little India, on Oct 23, 2022. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Deepavali celebrations at a Deepavali Fair along Serangoon Road in Little India, on Oct 24, 2022. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Members of public and devotees singing and dancing the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra to celebrate Deepavali in Little India, on Oct 24, 2022. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - After two years of muted celebrations because of Covid-19 restrictions, Ms Poovan Sundram and her immediate family will finally be able to celebrate Deepavali with her extended family – without any restrictions like the number of people allowed in the house.

“For the last two years, we didn’t celebrate much because of the five-person restriction per household, but since we have kids, this year we are taking the celebrations seriously so that they understand our traditions,” said the 32-year-old public relations manager, who is married with two children aged three and six.

Ms Poovan plans to spend the whole day with the family, including her parents and sister’s family. There will be around 12 people at her mother’s house on Deepavali on Monday, with a full itinerary that includes breakfast with the family, a lunch spread from Karu’s Indian Banana Leaf Restaurant, watching Tamil movies on Vasantham after that, and playing with sparklers at night.

Planning for this year’s celebration started two weeks ago, with a visit to the Deepavali bazaars along Campbell Lane, and opposite Centrium Square last week, to get accessories for her daughter like bangles and to get henna done on the hands. Her family also ordered festive clothes online well in advance.

This year, she is spending about $500 more on food alone, including catering and tidbits for entertaining guests over the course of the week.

“It’s been two years, so we’re OK to spend a little bit more this year just to get to see everyone in the same house again. But the cost has definitely gone up... it’s probably because ingredients are more expensive than before,” Ms Poovan said.

But these increased costs have not deterred customers, according to retailers who have seen booming business in the two weeks leading up to Deepavali. Much of the activity has centred on Little India, where people are picking up everything from clothes to home decor items, or simply soaking in the atmosphere.

“Footfall in Little India has increased tremendously and we’re expecting easily four to five million visitors over the course of the month... this is comparable to pre-Covid-19 levels,” noted Mr Ruthirapathy Parthasarathy, honorary secretary of the Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association.

Ms Soniyah Sidhu, director at Indian fashion store Jinder’s, noted that there is pent-up demand this year, driven by the fact that both the festive and year-end wedding season are coming together. Her customers are preparing for grand celebrations and multiple parties.

“We are trying our best to cater to demand,” said Ms Soniyah, adding that in the last 15 days, the store in Selegie Road has been crowded throughout the day, but is especially packed in the evening.

She said average spending has also gone up by about 40 per cent to 50 per cent, and the store is seeing people buying two to four outfits because they have so many parties to attend.

Restaurants offering dine-in and catering have seen a significant increase in orders for big groups this year.

Reservations on Deepavali at Indian restaurant Tiffin Room at Raffles Hotel were booked out three weeks ago, and many of them were for large groups, said a hotel spokesman.

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Mr Biryani owner and chef Govinda Rajan said: “We’ve seen many orders for 10 to 20 people this year for home deliveries, so people are definitely having larger parties at home.”

He added that people also started celebrations earlier, with orders going out from Friday. The restaurant stopped taking orders for home deliveries before Friday and is offering only self-collection from its two outlets in Chander Road and Norris Road over the weekend and on Deepavali itself.

Restaurants offering dine-in and catering have seen a significant increase in orders for big groups this year.  ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

But Mr Govinda is feeling the pinch of higher costs, with the price of ingredients skyrocketing this year. While the supply of fresh chicken from Malaysia has resumed since Oct 14 following a four-month ban, he said the price has almost doubled.

“Fresh chicken that used to cost $5.70 per kg is now almost $10... but we are not ready to adjust the price yet and we are still absorbing the costs,” he said.

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