MANILA, November 21, 2005 (STAR) By Joseph O. Cortes - Can a city ever be overlit and overdecorated for Christmas?

No! That’s what Singapore wanted to say when it formally launched last Nov. 10 its annual Christmas light-up, the kickoff event in the citywide Christmas in the Tropics 2005 celebration. A six-kilometer stretch covering the Orchard Road and Marina Bay areas has been decorated with an assortment of décor, fairy lights and musical tableaux to offer Singaporeans and tourists alike with the most colorful Christmas in this side of the world.

Orchard Road

Picture this:
The length of Orchard Road, stretching from the intersections of Tanglin Road and Scotts Road, and the junction of Buyong and Orchard roads, totaling 3.6 kilometers, has been decked for the Christmas light-up.

The motif for this part of the city is "Wonderland: A Musical Kaleidoscope." All things musical hang along and across the streets for a totally different yuletide experience. For the first time, not only do lights but also music – Christmas carols, that is – comes to Orchard Road.

A total of 45,000 meters of fairy lights and 49,880 meters of rope lights hang from trees, street lamps, lamp post banners, and other decorative items. The décor includes 2,952 musical notes, 108 musical icons, 270 meters of red ribbon, 464 decorative banners, and 1,030 floodlights that illuminate the banners and other decorative items along the length of Orchard Road. There are also 47 sound shells positioned strategically along the length of Orchard Road to provide shoppers and revelers with an unforgettable musical experience as they stroll down Singapore’s main street.

There are 46 songbirds from setups of Christmas gift boxes at the junction of Scotts Road. The gift boxes open in sequence to release three-dimensional songbirds that sing beautiful melodies to delight pedestrians. The songbirds sing every 30 minutes from 7 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. from Sundays to Thursdays, until 1:30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and until 5:30 a.m. on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

There are also four toy drummer boys at the Hereen Junction that play music every 15 minutes from 7 p.m. to midnight from Sundays to Thursdays, until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and until 6 a.m. on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

To string up all the décor, 19,800 meters of steel wire and 26,000 meters of electrical cables were used, while 28 generators are positioned strategically along the length of Orchard Road to light-up the entire setup. An estimated 108,000 man-hours was used just to complete the decoration on Orchard Road.

Marina Bay

And that’s just half of the story. Over at the Marina Bay area, "Winterland: Dreaming of a White Christmas" was adopted as theme. The trees along Marina Bay are strewn with blue and silver fairy lights for a wintry effect.

The décor stretches for 2.4 kilometers, from the junction of Orchard and Buyong roads, Bras Basah Road, Temasek Boulevard, Raffles Boulevard, Raffles Link, and Raffles Avenue.

The attractions at this side of the city are the snow globes on the Celebration Arch that encase Santa Claus, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and Frosty the Snowman. Each globe is about five meters in diameter and weighs about 40 kilos.

Hanging from trees around Marina Bay are 2,546 stars, 100 shooting stars from lamp posts, 300 banners, 43,000 meters of fairy light, and 2,800 meters of rope lights. To string up all these are 12,000 meters of electrical cables powered by eight generators. An estimated 26,000 man-hours were spent to set up all the décor.

Christmas In The Tropics

Singapore Tourism Board assistant chief executive (Leisure) Dr. Chan Tat Hon says: "Christmas in the Tropics has become well established as the key, yearend event that not only residents look forward to each year, but it has become a major draw for overseas visitors as well. Based on a survey conducted during last year’s Christmas celebrations, 38 percent of visitors to Singapore planned their trip to coincide with the celebrations and 24 percent of them were actually repeat visitors to our Christmas in the Tropics. Last year, in the months of November and December, close to 1.6 million visitors came to Singapore. This is a strong double digit growth of 17 percent as compared to the 1.3 million visitors during Christmas in the Tropics in 2003."

"This year’s Christmas in the Tropics offers the strongest events lineup ever. Since its inception in 2002, Christmas in the Tropics has grown from 14 events to the 56 events that will be held this year at venues island-wide. With such a spectacular array of celebratory events, Singaporeans and visitors will be spoilt for choice this Yuletide season. We believe that Christmas in the Tropics, arguably one of the world’s most elaborate festive celebrations, will enable visitors to take home fond memories of Uniquely Singapore experiences," adds Dr. Chan.

Hitachi Asia Ltd continues to be the main sponsor for Christmas Light-up 2005 along Orchard Road for the 15th consecutive year. For the second year running, VISA International is a sponsor and the official card of Christmas in the Tropics. Other partners include the National Council of Social Service and National Council of Churches of Singapore.

Dr. Chan says the light-up of Orchard Road is now in its 22nd year, while the Christmas in the Tropics program is now in its fourth. Each year, STB has been trying to outdo its success in the past years and aims for more.

"From year to year, we aim to improve what we have done in the previous years. We aim to become the most beautiful light-up in the world. This year’s celebration is the longest event in the past 22 years. We really have to push ourselves further and try to do more than what we did in the past years," he says.

He sees a Christmas celebration in the future when the light-up will be island-wide, and not primarily focused on the main shopping and entertainment areas of the city.

Before the light-up started 22 years ago, the Christmas décor was primarily limited to stores along Orchard Road. The initiative to make the light-up a more concerted effort came with the vision of Singapore offering the world’s most elaborate and exciting festive Christmas celebration.

The Christmas lights will be switched on until Jan. 2, 2006.

World’s Tallest Christmas Tree

To complete the Christmas experience, Singapore is also gunning for the Guinness world record for the tallest artificial Christmas tree in the world. The Mount Faber Leisure Group has set up a 61-meter-tall Christmas tree on top of Mt. Faber to beat the old world record of 53 meters set in Brazil in 2002.

Faber Leisure Group pubic relations consultant Ian Fong says the tree, originally a decommissioned Singtel transmitter tower, is adorned with 11,520 meters of artificial pine leaves, 15,000 meters of white fairy lights, 200 meters of rope lights, 500 blinking strobes, and 40 icicle lightings. The tree stands beside the newly opened Jewel Box on Mt. Faber, which is a glass structure with starlit facades, shining glass rooms and lit jewel-colored cable cars emerging and reemerging from within the structure.

The Christmas tree will be lit throughout the night, and can be seen throughout most of Singapore island. However, it will be dimmed at certain hours of the night for a light show on Mt. Faber. From 8 to 10 p.m. and at midnight, the tree will be part of a dazzling light and sound show that will be staged until Jan. 7. While the light show may be seen throughout Singapore island, the total sensory experience can only be had at Mt. Faber.

Mt. Faber is also the site of the island-wide New Year’s Eve countdown, which will be aired by Singaporean TV channels. A unique pyrotechnics display will occur within the Mt. Faber area, with a 20-minute fireworks display as the highlight of the countdown.

Other Holiday Events

In Singapore here are a number of events happening in Singapore this season, which travelers should not miss. Here is a short rundown:

Celebrate Christmas in Singapore Parade of Floats, Dec. 16 and 25: One of the highlights of this year’s Christmas celebrations is the vibrant parade of colorfully decorated lighted floats. Complementing the spectacular Christmas light-up along Orchard Road, the display of seven colorfully lit floats will launch the start of Celebrate Christmas in Singapore with color and festive cheer. For the first time, the Christmas Street Parade will be brought to the heartlands – Chinatown on Dec. 16 and 17, Queenstown on Dec. 18, Bukit Batok on Dec. 23 and Yishun on Dec. 24. Visitors and Singaporeans can catch the floats along Orchard Road on Dec. 16 and 25.

From Dec. 16 to 25, there will be outdoor stage performances along Orchard Road.

Residents and visitors will be treated to exciting performances of song, music, dance and drama every night at three different locations: Ngee Ann City Plaza, Paragon and Tong Building.

Christmas Celebration Village at Ngee Ann City Civic Plaza, Dec. 16-25: visitors and locals will be transported back in time as the Christmas story is re-enacted. There will be costumed performers and life-sized displays of Bethlehem, its marketplace and the nativity scene of the birth of Jesus, right in the heart of Orchard Road.

Orchard Road will also witness its biggest choir celebration with the Singing Christmas Tree from Dec. 16 to 25 at the Civic Plaza. Visitors and residents can look forward to a delightful experience with inspiring music by singers and musicians who will be performing by the dazzling and colorful 50-foot Christmas tree. To add to the festive ambiance, 10 minority groups from around Asia, namely the Karen tribe from Thailand, Ifugao and Igorot tribes from the Philippines, the aboriginals from Australia, the Amis tribe from Taiwan, the Lun Bawang tribe from Sarawak, and the Miao tribe from Yunnan-Kunming, will be showcasing their unique ways of celebrating Christmas through their songs and dances. Visitors will also get to see their varied native crafts, wares and costumes.

On Christmas Day, the heart of Orchard Road, from Scotts Road Junction to Paragon, will come alive with the staging of Singapore’s largest ever outdoor concert along Orchard Road. Known as the Grand Christmas Celebration Concert, the concert will boast strong participation from local and international artists, celebrities and performing groups.

STB will again offer tourists free HiPPO rides to enjoy the captivating Christmas light-up up close. This is part of STB’s efforts to add to the festive cheer by offering foreign visitors a unique and memorable experience during this Yuletide season. Until Jan. 2, 2006, except on the eves of Christmas and New Year, visitors to Singapore can hop on to the open-top HiPPO bus for a 30-minute spin along Orchard Road free of charge. Six tours at half hourly intervals will be available between 7:30 to 10:30 p.m.

In addition, until Jan. 6, 2006, visitors to Singapore can get to enjoy free CityBuzz service, with a choice of either a tour of Orchard Road (C1), Chinatown (C2), or Little India (C3). Visitors can get to experience the unique sights of Singapore’s city center in cool comfort on board the air-conditioned double-deck buses.

Visitors and residents alike can shop till they drop this festive season with Singapore’s first ever yearend late night shopping. Two of Singapore’s premier shopping belts, Orchard Road and Marina Bay, will be extending their shopping hours till late at night. In addition, shoppers will get to enjoy special discounts and promotions at participating malls including Tangs, Ngee Ann City, Paragon, Hereen, Centerpoint, Plaza Singapura, Raffles City Shopping, Suntec City, and Millenia Walk.

To offer visitors more reasons to visit and shop in Singapore during this festive season, many shopping malls will also be offering irresistible promotions and great shopping deals.

Apart from shopping, visitors and Singaporeans can also look forward to exciting entertainment and performances, such as the musical comedy A Twist of Fate, and the premiere of The Snow Queen by the Singapore Repertory Theater, The Nutcracker ballet by the Singapore Dance Theater, as well as the popular musical Rent, which is on its 10th anniversary world tour. Visitors and residents can also experience The Art of Star Wars, a 2,000-square- meter exhibition of the epic Star Wars movie series, or party up a storm at the annual dusk-to-dawn ZoukOut dance music festival.

The Christmas in the Tropics celebration culminates on New Year’s Eve at the hippest hangouts in town, such as Clarke Quay, CHIJMES and IndoChine, where revelers will be ringing in the New Year and toasting to a memorable and Uniquely Singapore festive experience.

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For details on Singapore’s Christmas in the Tropics and other yuletide events in the Lion City, log on to www.stb.com.sg.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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