SINGAPORE - Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam marked the end of a key Taoist festival with hundreds of devotees at Sembawang Beach on Sunday (Oct 9) evening.
The annual Festival of the Nine Emperor Gods, also known as Kew Ong Yah in Chinese dialect, was celebrated in Nee Soon GRC, where Mr Shanmugam is a Member of Parliament.
The 10-day long celebrations involved performances and community events.
Said Mr Shanmugam: "Every year, the organisers extend the celebrations to everyone in the community - goodie bags are distributed, daily vegetarian meals are offered, the elderly residents are treated to a dinner and are given red packets.
"Devotees and the gods will also make a special tour around Nee Soon to pay mutual respects to the various temples, including the Indian temples who warmly welcome them."
As an MP, Mr Shanmugam has attended the festival every year if he is in Singapore during the celebrations.
Speaking to the media, he added that the event is very ground-up and also emphasises tradition. Beyond religion, the celebrations take on a multi-racial and multi-religious approach as well, he said, with many participating.
Accompanied by a procession of brightly-lit floats, lions and dragon dances and performers in elaborate costumes, Mr Shanmugam and the devotees left from the Chong Pang Combined Temple to Sembawang Beach where prayers were held.
After the prayers, he joined temple elders bearing the sacred urn representing the gods in "sending off the Nine Emperor Gods" into the waters of the Straits of Johor along Sembawang Beach.
They then returned to the shore to set a huge paper-mache dragon boat ablaze, to symbolise casting off bad luck and negativity.
Mr Toh Hong San, chairman of the Kew Ong Yah Jing Shui Gang Dou Mu Gong Temple, said cultural performances from other racial groups were included in the celebrations this year. Malay and Indian performances were featured during the vegetarian feast held for more than 950 residents on the ninth day of the festival as well.