Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The only Christmas I ever saw


Tropical orchids in the Singapore Botanical Gardens

-          Is this snow?
-          Where?
-          Over there, at the entrance to the Tanglin Mall.
-          It can't be snow, its 27c degrees outside.
-          But look! It's all white!
-          I think it's only a foam making machine.
-          Oh. Well it does seem weird to have a white Christmas in Singapore….
This bizarre dialogue was carried out between my husband and me while riding our car from our home to Orchard Road, the center of Singapore. It was December 2002 and we had already lived in Singapore for 6 months and it was Christmas time. Up till then I've never seen Christmas celebration anywhere. As a born and bred Israeli Jew who never lived anywhere else, Christmas was only something I saw in movies and sappy TV shows.  Living in Singapore was my first and only experience as an ex-pat, and it was quite an extraordinary one.  
One of the major sports in Singapore is shopping. The island is shoppers' heaven. No matter what you like: electronics, gadgets, high fashion, bags, shoes, toys, and cosmetics, you name it they have it and on sale. I've never seen so many malls and shopping centers as in Singapore. Orchard road for example is a long street compiled from one huge shopping centre after another: The Tanglin Mall followed by The Forum followed by The Paragon followed by the shrine of shoppers The Takashimaya.  Come December we were amazed to see the amount of effort invested in decorating and adorning the entire Island. Orchard road and all the malls became fantasy land of light and sparkle. We were awe struck by the size of the tree that was put in the entrance to the Takashimaya center, and were quite amused by the snow machine at the entrance to the Tanglin. My then 3 year old child thought it was an amazing sight.
The Singapore river on New-Year Eve 2003

I think that in Singapore the main meaning of Christmas are more sales and having free time to do more shopping because the majority of the population is not Christian. There was defiantly a surreal quality to reindeer images, and huge fir trees in a tropical island sitting near the equator.  We were amused by the scenery. The only Christmassy gesture we performed was exchanging presents with our Austrian-Nigerian neighbours before they went to their skiing vacation in Europe.
We on the other hand celebrated Hanukkah with Israeli friends and our family that came to visit from far away.  We got some great stuff in huge discounts, it was on sale!
The year after that, we were back in Israel and Christmas was again only another date in the calendar that is mentioned in TV specials from abroad.
Happy New Year to us all! May 2011 will be a wonderful year. 

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