Singapore

Disney characters not representative of a Christian festival…so is Orchard Road.

In an island of consumerism, secularisation and capitalism takes precedence over and above religious beliefs.

The Walt Disney Company (Southeast Asia)

The National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) called this year’s Christmas light-up along Orchard Road “disappointing” and is “deeply concerned about the increasing secularisation and commercialisation of Christmas in Singapore”.

In a letter dated Nov 19, addressed to the Singapore Tourism Board’s (STB) chief executive officer, Keith Tan, the NCCS said the use of Disney characters has “no meaningful connection to the season of Christmas”.

The letter was signed off by NCCS general secretary Reverend Ngoei Foong Nghian.

STB observerplus

In making their point, NCSS pointed to how other religious festivals in Singapore like Deepavali and Hari Raya Puasa are “carried out with much less commercialisation and a much greater emphasis on the religious nature of these special days”.

Nghian added: “Being an essentially religious festival, Christmas should not be viewed primarily as a money-making venture or an opportunity to market a particular commercial brand.”

Let’s be clear. Orchard Road is the shopping belt of Singapore. It is the heart of greed, gluttony and envy. Want lust? Orchard Towers is just a stone’s throw away.

What Orchard Road is not, is Christendom.

To be fair, while the Muslims have Hari Raya in Geylang Serai, and the Hindus have Deepavali and Thaipusam in Little India, the Christians themselves do not exactly have an identifiable spot of their own – the appropriation of Orchard Road does not count.

The Orchard Road light up was first organised in 1984 by then Singapore Tourist Promotion Board (now STB) to capitalise on year-end festivities.

It is also the time when the number of tourist arrivals increase due to worldwide holidays. The year-end light up is essentially an event to bump up retail sales and stock-clearing.

In response to TODAY’s queries following NCCS’ letter, the Orchard Road Business Association (ORBA) and STB said that they work together each year with various organisations and partners to make the light-up “a distinctive and memorable affair with broad festive appeal for all visitors to Orchard Road”.

Ms Ranita Sundra, STB’s director of dining and retail, and Mr Steven Goh, ORBA’s executive director, said in the joint statement that this year’s “family-friendly Disney-themed light-up follows the same approach”.

“(It) is intended to complement the spirit of friendship and conviviality that we hope visitors will experience as they travel down Orchard Road.”

In an island of consumerism, secularisation and capitalism takes precedence over and above religious beliefs.

That is the Orchard Road we have all come to know.

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