Christmas Day is celebrated across Singapore every 25 December. It is one of the two Christian holidays marked by the country.
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Christmas in Singapore is celebrated in surprisingly “big” style, considering that only about one-sixth of the resident population is Christian. A third are Buddhists, a sixth Muslim, a sixth without a religion, and the rest mostly Taoist or Hindu. However, 38 percent of those living in Singapore are expatriates, and most keep Christmas in a very secular way anyhow, which explains how this nation can celebrate a major Christian holiday with such fanfare.
In Singapore, it is quite possible to celebrate Christmas much the way it is celebrated in Western countries and to keep it in a very religious manner. Many do, but the majority don’t. You can go to church for a midnight service on Christmas Eve, and there are churches within blocks of practically every part of the city.
Then, at service’s end, you can feast at church or at home on familiar Christmas dishes like roast turkey, eggnog, fruitcake, gingerbread, pumpkin pie, and a healthy helping of Christmas sweets for desert. Many western restaurants in Singapore will offer these traditional Christmas foods at this time of year, so it is not even required to eat at home in order to enjoy them.
However, a more secularised way to keep the season prevails across most of the island. Shopping the December sales and especially the Christmas Eve sales is a virtual ritual. There are major shopping zones on Orchard Road, at Marina Bay, on Sentosa Island and elsewhere, and malls and small shops will stay open for extra hours to ensure the maximum “customer flow.”
As you move around the city, you will notice an unusual abundance of parades, floats, concerts, and street performances. At almost every store, you will see Christmas trees, lights, and other decorations. The Christmas trees in Singapore will be decorated a little differently, often with candy, ribbons, and teddy bears, but the differences between “commercialised Christmas” in Singapore versus the West are not nearly as great as one might expect.
Five specific activities you may wish to engage in if touring or living in Singapore at Christmas time are:
- See a life-sized display of Bethlehem and the manger where Christ was born at St. Andrew’s Cathedral. There are three straight days of celebrations, ending on Christmas Eve, and after the walk-through tour and the church services, there will be open-air performances and food-fair sales.
- Go carolling at Tong Building Plaza on Christmas Eve. Everyone is welcome to join in on this “mass carolling,” and those who choose to remain in the audience can still participate.
- Attempt to make your Singaporean Christmas white after all. Go ice skating at Tanglin Mall on ice covered with white foam. Young children and others who haven’t quite mastered the art of skating, but would like a foam-only event, will also be accommodated.
- Stroll amid flowers and lights at Gardens by the Bay. The aroma of flowers wafts about inside the “flower dome,” and you will be amazed by the sight of illuminated “flower snowmen.” Outside, there is a “forest” of Luminarie light towers, which look a little like flower-wrapped trees growing around giant light bulbs.
- Take advantage of the free admission to all of Singapore’s museums on Christmas Day. Learn about Singapore’s unique history at the National Museum, about its culture at the Peranakans’ Museum, and about rare stamps at the unusual but interesting Philatelic Museum.