Eastern Interpretation of a Western Holiday

Christmas is traditionally more of a Western tradition rather than an Eastern one. Yet, here in Singapore they have adopted many American and European customs. While Chinese New Year probably wins the vote for most popular holiday, Christmas still receives a lot of attention.

Most American Christmas traditions are at the very least accepted here, if not also practiced. Christmas music (both secular and Christian) are played on the speakers in stores. Trees are seen dotting shops and attractions (though perhaps a little different than in the States). Special candies are sold just at this time of year; I’ll admit the variety and price are different. And even decorations and displays are still put up depicting different aspects of Christmas.

And yet, something gets lost in the Eastern interpretation of the primarily Western tradition. Maybe part of it is due to the fact that the climate is warm and they are trying to carry on with festivities that require snow. (There is even a mall that hosts an event where they produce massive amounts of fake snow!)

Perhaps the holiday’s confusion is seen nowhere better than West Coast Plaza (a local mall a few bus stops away from our home).

Christmas = mushrooms?

Christmas = mushrooms?

The picture doesn’t do it justice, but incorporated into this massive display outside the entrance to the mall is the following: mushroom forrest, melting snow, cozy lanterns, bare trees, pine trees, grass, ivy, sled, and unicorn.

Yes, I said UNICORN!

Since when does a unicorn pull a sleigh in grass?

Since when does a unicorn pull a sleigh in grass?

Despite the odd display, we figured we’d ask a passerby to take our picture. Why not?

Under the spring-like ivy arbor

Under the spring-like ivy arbor

Thankfully (?) the theme is continued inside. It is complete with suspended wreaths with mushrooms/unicorns throughout the mall.

More fairy-like than Christmas-y

More fairy-like than Christmas-y

Andrew’s German friend/coworker was also puzzled by the display. He claimed that displays as such are what made him go back to Germany for a real Christmas celebration. To prove the point to his colleagues, he made this powerpoint slide.

Powerpoint slide depicting the oddities of the display

Powerpoint slide depicting the oddities of the display

It really is bizarre. As best I can tell it’s trying to incorporate fairy tale magic into the holiday.

In the display’s defense, the secular American ideas of Christmas aren’t that much better. At a young age I pointed out to a friend who believed in Santa the absurdity and illogical nature of it all. I guess elves and such do seem similar to fairies. And fairies seem similar to spring and unicorns??? Maybe…?

But this isn’t the only display that strikes us Americans as a bit odd.

At another mall the theme seemed to be a mix of Beauty and the Beast with Barbie sparkles. I did not understand how they claimed that this promoted “Christmas magic.”

Swags of red and gold cover columns while gold picture frames highlight sparkly shoes and purses... um, yeah.

Swags of red and gold cover columns while gold picture frames highlight sparkly shoes and purses… um, yeah.

Oh, if you look closely there’s a fairy or something flying in the air towards the mall. I don’t get it. I’m not even going to attempt an explanation or defense.

But if displays at malls weren’t enough, then why not add advertisements of malls to the mix?

Santa & his reindeer in a hot air balloon

Santa & his reindeer in a hot air balloon

Words are beginning to fail me on how to describe how odd it is. Granted reindeer don’t fly, so a hot air balloon does sound slightly more plausible than a sleigh. But really, I just don’t get the point of it. What’s the point of any of these confounded displays?

I’m not fanatically suggesting the elimination of all displays at Christmas. But personally, I wouldn’t mind if all displays were omitted so that more focus could be placed on the real reason for the season. I suppose the celebration of a baby being born in a little town of Bethlehem seems foolish to some. However, I would argue that these displays are not only foolish, but just downright confusing. I’m looking forward to spending Christmas on the beach… away from all of the confusion and any bizarre displays.

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2 responses to “Eastern Interpretation of a Western Holiday

  1. At least all this makes one smile. It reminds me of the adopted Christmas custom in Japan of “fruitcakes”…they serve strawberry shortcakes as fruitcakes at Christmastime.

  2. Isn’t it wonderful to know WHY Christ-mas matters and what it truly is about? I agree that some of the American links are tenuous (I sort of get the St. Nick giving gifts and the red & green though the materialism, Santa Claus and elves leave one questioning) but without CHRIST what do you have? Admist all the materialism state-side I sometimes stop in awed silence as a store’s speakers blare “fall on your knees…” or some other reminder that G-d sent His son, “God-saves,” i.e., “Jesus” to this world to save all who might believe on Him!

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