Tis’ the season…. To be audio-visually assaulted by festive music and glitter decorations? For retailers to fight for your attention?

As Orchard Road lights up and prepares for countless of tourists to stroll down her pavements admiring whimsical lights and taking advantage of tax free shopping, Christmas time forces us all to pause and reflect on what this holiday means to us all.

The most wonderful time of the year

The word ‘Christmas’ originates from Christ Mass, from the “Mass of Christ”, a church service for Christians to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. What began as a religious holiday quickly turned into the biggest consumer spending season every year. With the introduction of trappings like Christmas trees, Santa Claus and reindeers, this naturally commercialised Christmas from a religious holiday to a secular one as the patron saint of this holiday was a jolly old man who was also a generous gift distributor. In fact in Singapore, 56% of people believe that Christmas is about the spirit of giving. A testament to how much the commercialization of Christmas has penetrated even the sunny shores of a little Southeast Asian city state.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

For a nation whose majority (54%) doesn’t usually celebrate Christmas, Singapore sure does spend a huge amount of time on Christmas decorations. In 2017, it took more than 76,000 man hours to make all the decorations required for the 2.88km stretch of Orchard Road. In a bid to attract shoppers in the day, Christmas lights starts everyday in the afternoon this year, a few hours earlier than the usual evening timing.

However, all these efforts might just be for show as most Singaporeans (73%) spend less than $200 on Christmas gifts with 23% even claiming they don’t spend on Christmas gifts at all. Since a large proportion of Singaporeans (53%) also claim they don’t usually receive Christmas gifts, the majority of consumer spending during the festive period could be attributed to the scores of tourists who choose to visit Singapore for the holiday season.

All I want for Christmas is you

For those who do celebrate Christmas, about 16% say it carries a religious significance to them and a significant minority (13%) even go to Church. The religious undertones of Christmas may fast be disappearing with secular corporations even celebrating the holiday as majority (60%) of Singaporeans say that their workplaces are holding Christmas celebrations.

In Singapore, most (39%) say they celebrate the holiday with loved ones over a meal which brings the family together. The dishes of choice? 66% said their Christmas meal would consist of a mix of both local and western dishes, representing a marriage of local and foreign traditions as Singaporeans customise meals to their own preferences.

So as we over-indulge our loved ones this Christmas, let’s remember that even though the holiday rooted in religious significance has now been heavily exploited by capitalism, for most of us, it gives us an excuse to eat well and show the people we love our gratitude.

From all of us here at milieu, we would like to wish all our readers Merry Christmas and a very Happy 2018!

[All statistics reported in this article are based on surveys conducted by milieu]