The region is a melting pot of ethnic groups, religions, languages, literature, music, festivals and art.
The ASEAN region has a diverse cultural heritage with the mingling of ethnic groups, religions and languages. While there is great diversity manifested in language, religious rituals and cultural practices, art literature and music there is also a common Asian theme of seeking inner peace and meditation, deep spirituality and love and respect for nature. The history of colonial rule in several countries has produced a blend of some western influences with local Asian culture.
The region has a multiplicity of languages and religions including Islam (Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia); Buddhism (Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore, Vietnam); Christianity (Philippines) and Hinduism (Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Singapore); and Confucianism (Vietnam, Singapore). Languages include Malay, Khmer, Indonesian, Laosian, Burmese, Filipino, Chinese Mandarin, Tamil, Thai, Vietnamese – and English!
The diversity of cultures is displayed through popular festivals celebrated in the ASEAN region with fervour. This includes the month-long Ramadan fasting season and Eid al-Fitr at its end, the Taoist traditional Chinese New Year and Hungry Ghost Festival and the Buddhist festivals of Songkran and Vesak – the birth, enlightenment and death of Lord Buddha. Christians in Singapore and Philippines celebrate Christmas with fervour. Singapore has festive street light-ups and shopping specials for the season and the New Year parties in Sentosa and Marina Bay are huge. In the Philippines capital Manila, the giant lantern festival is the highlight of the Yuletide season. The Tamil Indian community in Malaysia and Singapore celebrate Thaipusam to honour the Hindu god (Lord Murugan) and Diwali, the festival of lights. In Singapore’s ethnic enclave of Little India, Diwali is a festive season with the market all lit up and the Indian community out in fine clothing and shopping for traditional spices, food and other items.
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