Dec 12 2011
Don’t be fooled by the balmy climate and the non-Christian majority: Singapore goes crazy for Christmas. Like festive celebrations in Kuala Lumpur, Christmas time in Singapore is largely a secular event that takes place not at home but in malls and restaurants around the city. Singapore’s “Christmas in the Tropics” events are full swing now through January 2, 2012.
For an overwhelming dose of Christmas cheer, head to Singapore’s shopping street of Orchard Road. This two-kilometre stretch is so spectacularly decorated they run nightly “Orchard Road Christmas Light Up” open-top bus tours and every mall has a Christmas tree or two. Since Singapore’s climate is a death sentence to pine trees, the malls seem to compete to see which can create the largest and most garish Christmas tree from alternative materials like candy, jewels, ribbons, and even teddy bears.
Instead of taking photos with Santa, the Singapore tradition seems to be posing with as many Christmas trees as possible. Also keep your ears open for carollers roaming Orchard Road and, on Christmas Day itself, there will be concerts and Christmas floats. It’s possible to enjoy Christmas on Orchard Road without actually setting foot in a mall, but if you do expect even more decorations and plenty of Christmas promotions.
Just as crucial to the Christmas holiday as shopping is the Christmas treats. Perhaps because of its history as a British colony, Singaporeans have a taste for traditional dishes like turkey, stuffing, and log cake. However, most Singaporean homes do not have an oven large enough for a turkey and, even if they did, who wants to spend hours slaving over the oven in the tropical heat?
That said, it’s no surprise that many restaurants offer special Christmas menus and catering services. Restaurants at international hotels tend to offer the most traditional spreads and Christmas lunch at the Carlton Hotel is a reasonable S$45 for a buffet with turkey, honey-baked ham, lobster and lots more. For a fusion Christmas, try the Peranakan-spiced turkey with sticky rice stuffing at the Marina Mandarin or a durian ice cream log cake from Swensen’s. If you didn’t come all the way to Singapore for an expensive Christmas dinner comparable to what you’d eat at home, stick to the hawker centres.
While Christmas in Singapore can be a shamelessly commercial affair, for a reminder of the simple joys of the holidays visit Tanglin Mall where it “snows” every night at 19:30 (and 20:30 on weekends and Christmas Day). The snow is actually bubbles, but for many tropical kids this is the closest they’ll ever get to the real deal and they jump into the avalanche of bubbles with complete abandon. It’s a must if you’re staying in Singapore with the family.
While Orchard Road is the centre for Singapore’s Christmas festivities, other tourist hot spots including Marina Bay, Resorts World Sentosa, the Botanic Gardens, and even the Night Safari are in the festive spirit with Christmas trees and decorations.
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