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Dec 14, 2019

Christmas spells merry-making

Christmas spells merry-making ... and jangle of cash registers

By Betty Khoo

[Source:  New Nation, 26 November 1971]

Every year the Christmas cheer and celebration seems to get bigger and brighter.  But the true spirit of Christmas has perceptibly grown dimmer.

In Singapore where out of a population of 2.1 million, only 170,000 (8½ per cent) are Christians, Christmas is celebrated on a scale out of all proportion to the adherents of the faith.

Christmas here has come to mean a season of merry-making, feasting and shopping sprees.

It is perhaps difficult to say whether shops, restaurants and nightclubs are cashing in on the "spontaneous" observances of Christmas or, they have by their tinsel allure, directly encouraged the celebration of Christmas by many non-Christians.

One cynic observed dryly:  "Santa Claus and Jingle Bells has come to mean the jangle of the cash register."

The shops are making sure that Christmas will be ushered in with a big, profitable bang.  Some as early as October, put up their Christmas buntings.  They are also vying with one another to put up the biggest Santa Clause and most spectacular Christmas tree.

A leading department store disclosed that "it had increased its stocks in all sections this year.  But with so many new shopping complexes, competition for the shoppers' dollars will be stiff.

It appears that not only are the young, affluent and swinging non-Christians celebrating Christmas but even the Chinese businessmen - the merchants, building contractors - have launched into a whole-hearted, costly celebration of the Yuletide season.

The superintendent of a supermarket said:  "These Chinese business firms spend far more on our gift hampers and spirits during Christmas than anyone else.  They purchase these as X'mas giveaways for delighted clients.

The spirit of giving is there but the motive is profit.

Chinese businessmen are also making Christmas a time for lavish entertaining.  At the prices top spots expect to charge for their Christmas bill-of-fare, it is not surprising that Christmas is increasingly being celebrated on expense accounts.
Christmas cheer is a little less expensive in discotheques and the second-rate nightclubs.  But those who really observe the true spirit of Christmas prefer home gatherings where rousing carols create the atmosphere.

but in spite of the enticing bright lights of nightspots, church attendance has not fallen.  Churches are still packed to capacity for Midnight Mass and the morning after Christmas Day service.  Still, for many church-goes, the service is just a temporary sobering up after which they plunge into another round of party-going.

For many men, Christmas is just one long drinking binge after which some make a thorough nuisance of themselves on the road.

In England, it is reported, the traditional Christmas office party has often beconme an excuse for a wild drinking bout and uninhibited licentious behaviour.  It is significant that office tradition there strictly precludes wives.

The commercialisation of Christmas has also made its observance a costly affair.

A Christmas Eve dinner and dance at the best nightclub used to cost $20-$25 a person in the mid-sixties.  Now it will cost you between $35-$45 a person.

One hotelier said:  "Certainly prices have to go up.  Now you get American-cut beef on the wagon and vintage wines - previously these were not available."

A few years ago $2 could get you a decent present.  Now its upwards of $5 and, the more attractive Christmas gift-wrap the more expensive the gift.

Many Christians and even a number of non-Christians have deplored the crass commercialism of Christmas.  However, one staunch Catholic said: "One is tempted to dismiss the commercialism of Christmas as disgusting.  But if one thinks of it as a season of good cheer when everybody has a holiday, then one can overlook all but the grosser aspects of this commercialism.

Christmas is regarded by everyone as a time of good-fellowship and goodwill.  It is that time of year then people  - non-Christians included, remember friends and relatives and exchange Christmas cards.

It is a pity however, that many Christmas cards, particularly those locally produced do not have any Christmas motif or sentiment.  Some merely depict a Singapore scene with Greeting in four languages.

Nevertheless, despite the commercial overtones, warmth is generated by the sending and receiving of Christmas cards.

And, although Christmas has defintely become very commercialised, those who want to observe its true meaning and significance can still do so - in the privacy of their homes and churches.

It does however, require a strong willpower to resist the manifold temptations.

Please check out this related blog here .

Archived photos of Christmas celebrations in Singapore, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore.

Evelyn Tan (left) with her sister Rosalind and brother David putting the finishing touches tot he Christmas tree in their home in Tiong Bahru.  Photo date:  24/12/1951.

Elizabeth Taylor buys a stuffed tiger.  She later asked Mrs Run Run Shaw (right) to give it to the underpriviled children for the Shaws' Christmas Tree fund.

Six happy girls "sailing" in their motor boats with a large crowd including the Deputy Prime Minister Dr Toh Chin Chye and the Major-General I C Harris, GCO, Singapore Base District looking on at the Christmas party for underprivileged children given by the British army in Great World Park.'
Date:  17/12/1960

Puan Noor Aishah, wife of Yang Di-Petuan Negara of Singapore, Inche Yusof Bin Ishak, bringing Christmas cheers to 72 old people living in Red Cross House at Penang Lane.
Date: 21/12/1961

Puan Noor Aishah distributes gifts to handicapped children during Christmas party at Singapore Red Cross in Penang Road.  Date:  04/12/1965

Christmas Party in aid of St Andrew's Mission Hospital in Jalan Besar Stadium on 20/12/1958

What it means to the non-Christians

[Source:  Singapore Monitor, 12 December 1982]

What does Christmas means to non-Christians?  Is it just another public holiday, or does the spirit of Christmas touch them, too?  Raadhika Mahadevan puts the question to some non-Christian Singaporeans.

Mrs Jenny Ong, (Buddhist), a travel agent in her early 30s who is married with two children:

"We don't celebrate Christmas at home and tend to regard it as just another holiday.

"But I do send Christmas cards to our Christian friends and to clients.  And usually we attend Christmas parties at the homes of friends.

"This Christmas we are planning a two-week holiday abroad."

Mr R Velayudhan, (Hindhu), a 25-year-old airlines steward:

"Christmas has no special meaning for my family.  We send cards to friends but that's all.  We don't attend Christmas parites or go on special Christmas visits to friends.  And this year, on Christmas Day, I'll be busy at work."

Mrs Suseela Karunasena, (Buddhist), a 51-year-old widowed housewife and mother:

"As every Christmas approaches, I get that Christmasy feeling.  It's in the air.  Even though I'm not a Christian I go out Christmas shopping to buy gifts for my Christian friends, and I even put up a Christmas tree because it's so beautiful.  I also send out piles of cards to friends both local and overseas.

"Christmas Day is always special.  I spend it with Christian friends, sharing their turkey lunch and all the other special trimmuings that come with the day.  And even before Christmas I usually help one or two close friends decorate their Christmas tree.

"I see Christmas as a national celebration with the spirit of the seasson cuting across all cultures."

Miss Sandra Sin, (Buddhist), a 22-year-old social worker:

"Christmas for me usually passes like any other public holiday or off-day.

"I get myself involved in my usual activities such as meeings and functions of the Singapore Nichiren Shoshu Buddhist Association.

"I don't send Christmas cards, go on special visits or exchange gifts with friends."

Mr Ahmad Suhaimi, (Muslim), a 28-year-old husband and father who works as an embassy official:

"Chrisstmas Day to me is like any other public holiday - a time to play with my little son, a day for the family to be together at home.  We enjoy the special programme on radio and TV and usually visit close Christian friends.  We send these friends Christmas cards but we don't exchange gifts.

"This year we might be organising a holiday trip to Malaysia, but we haven't finalised things yet."

Mr K Sekvam (Hindu), a 31-year-old husband and father who works as a technician:

"Although we are Hindus, we also do believe in Jesus Christ.  Son on Christmas Eve we offer special prayers to him.'

"Christmas Day itself, however, is like any other public holiday to us.  We don't have a Christmas tree or anything like that.  This day on which we hold a special celebration is Deepavali Day."

Last-minute shoppers pack stores

[Source:  The Straits Times, 24 December 1989]

Traffic jams, long queues and rain no deterrent

Last-minute shoppers yesterday went all out to get their Christmas purchases done, come rain or shine.

An evening downpour failed to stop them from packing the stores in the Orchard Road area and elsewhere for their 11th-hour buys.

Traffic james were not only on the roads; the throngs queued up patiently in front of payment counters and changing rooms and milled almost cheek-by-jowl in the more popular department stores.

The most harassed were obviously the cashiers and counter-girls who never stopped wrapping and packing throughout the day.  They kept their cool  and plodded on.

Shops along the Orchard Road stretch reported brisk business with some expecting a 30 to 40 per cent rise over the weekend.  Extra sales staff were on hand on each shift to cope with crowds.

At Robinson's in Centrepoint, store manager Philip Wee said that the crowds had been getting larger over the past week with the biggest rush this weekend.

The special draw at Metro in Paragon was the 30-minute sale specials during which certain items were offered on reduced prices for half-hourly periods.  These times were announced at intervals during the day over the store's public address system.

But queves at the store's sales counters moved at a fairly steady pace, thanks to the new bar-coded price tages that are instantly read by a scanning device.

This saves the cashiers from having to manually type in each product's code and price.

The store manager said that they expected a 30 to 40 per cent rise in business today.

For shoppers like Miss Geralyn Ong, 24, a sales co-ordinator, Christmas shopping would not be the same with the crowds and queues, especially when she was out hunting for gifts just a day or two before Christmas.

"It is all part of the atmosphere of a Singapore Christmas," she said, adding that by getting one friend to queue at the sales counter and another at the gift wrapping counter, she still managed to get everything done on time.

Other last-minute shoopers likes Mrs S.C. Chua, 38, a secretary, were picking up gifts for others rather than for themselves.

"I did all my shopping earlier, but the children wanted to get some presents so we came here," said Mrs Chua, who was at Metro Paragon with her two children.

The extended shopping hours at all the major department stores, with Tang's Studio being the latest to close at midnight yesterday was another draw for late shoppers.

But Tangs and Tang's Studio will be closed today.

Most stores siad they expected their tills to ring a lot luder today.  Experience from previous years tells them that when ther is still a little time left, Singaporeans will be out in force to buy, buy and buy.

Happy shopping!  Merry Christmas!


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