Dusk till dawn for Christmas

Putting up festive decorations at Bugis Junction is a lot of hard work, with 'Santa's elves' working through the night, but the result is magical

They come at night, when the lights go out and children are tucked in their beds.

Quietly, they work, setting up the tree, carrying large presents, baubles and giant candy canes.

Call them Santa's elves. Except they do not live in the North Pole, but in tropical Singapore.

They are the workers behind the glittering, enchanting Christmas decorations at the malls.

Bugis Junction allowed The Sunday Times a rare glimpse of the work and effort needed to put together its Christmas decorations.

The five-storey mall, built in 1995, is known for its creative Christmas decorations every year. In 2007, it had a giant 3.4m by 3m musical box playing Christmas songs throughout the mall's operating hours.

A melting clock with oversized twisted hands is part of the set-up, which is inspired by the 20th-century surrealist art movement; and a 2.5m-tall silver reindeer,with a body shaped like a bauble.

Two years ago, its decorations took on a whimsical bent, with a Santa Claus sprouting butterfly wings and fluttering in the air, and a multi- coloured house inside a giant shoe, based on the nursery rhyme about the old woman who lived in a shoe.

This year, its decorations have a surrealist theme, inspired by the 20th-century art movement famous for its melting clocks and irrational juxtapositions.

At Bugis Square, next to its water fountain, stands a 10m-tall Christmas tree that resembles a giant candy cane, topped with a glittering silver star. Its branches are shaped like twirling waxed moustaches, on which red-and-silver baubles hang.

Next to it is a 2.5m-tall silver reindeer, with a body shaped like a bauble and decorated with a star.

Beside a stack of presents, a smiling snowman greets shoppers, its base made up of another ball ornament. Instead of snow, its face and body are made of white polyhedrons. A melting clock - with its oversized twisted hands - makes an appearance, decked in a Santa's hat.

Strange? A little. An excellent photo opportunity? Definitely.

The decorations are aimed at giving shoppers a sense of wonder and playful inspiration, says Ms Ivy Ang , general manager of Bugis Junction and Bugis+.

She says: "Through our elaborate and spectacular displays, we hope to create fun, photo-worthy experiences for our shoppers to immerse themselves in the holiday spirit."

Over the past two weeks, about 20 staff members from home-grown graphic design firm AY Designs worked tirelessly to put up the decorations.

Starting at 10pm, after the mall closes, they stop work only when the sun rises. Transporting the components in trucks, they unload each present and twisted branch, careful not to drop or damage each piece.

The upper trunk section of the tree weighs at least 60kg and has to be hoisted with a boom lift.

AY Designs' managing director Arthur Yeo, 55, says: "Putting up the decorations might look easy and fun, but it is a lot of hard work. We have to make sure each component is assembled correctly so the whole thing can come together and look perfect."

On several occasions, the heavy rain forced the team to stop work. But once the clouds dissipate, they go back to lifting and assembling.

More than 4,200 man hours went into the whole operation.

It all paid off. In the early hours of last Friday morning, the star went up the tree and more than 400 strips of fairy lights were switched on.


Christmas spirit comes alive at Bugis Junction. Go to http://str.sg/4Mgt

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 20, 2016, with the headline 'Dusk till dawn for Christmas'. Subscribe