Christmas without carols: Celebrating an unusual Yuletide season amid Covid-19 pandemic

SINGAPORE - No church extravaganzas. Smaller parties. Subdued dining. Less street buzz. No travel. Distance giving.

This Sunday Times special edition takes stock of this unusual Yuletide season.


Christmas without carollers: A muted season for Christians but intimate virtual parties, joyful hybrid services abound

Christmas is muted in a pandemic year, with worshippers mouthing carols behind masks, no live singing allowed in church.

Gone are the glitzy song-and-dance shows, sumptuous buffets and street light-ups staged by churches for their annual throngs of guests.

In place of these extravaganzas are humbler, home-centred pizza spreads or watch parties for five, with even the congregations of mega-churches largely staying home this season.

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Christmas without gift exchanges: No big-group gift swops, Secret Santas but spirit of giving stays strong

It seems even a pandemic cannot stop the fever for festive shopping.

People still throng Orchard Road malls these days, queueing in long lines to scan SafeEntry codes outside boutiques or patiently waiting to have purchases wrapped.

Christmas gifting is alive and well, even as purse strings are tightened in other areas.

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Christmas without trimmings: Cutting back on festive costs doesn't mean missing out on Christmas cheer

Ten-year-old Naomi Tan and her 12-year-old brother, Karlsson, are not getting Christmas presents this year. And they are fine with it.

Their mother, Ms Katherine Chua, was retrenched in July and started her current job as a secretary in a manufacturing firm last month.

"With Covid-19, you learn to better appreciate what you have. Now is not the right time to be a spendthrift," says the 46-year-old, who is married to a postman. They have three older children aged 16, 22 and 25.

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Christmas without bellringers: Charities fight back to reclaim Christmas under Covid-19

Malls in Singapore have fallen silent this festive season, when volunteers from The Salvation Army usually ring bells to solicit public donations.

The familiar red kettles used for The Salvation Army's annual fund-raiser, known as Christmas Kettling, can still be found at selected shopping centres, but they are unmanned due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Members of the public can drop cash into the kettle pots or scan the QR code on them to make a donation. They can also give online at christmaskettling.sg.

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Christmas without leaving home: Festive films, music and TV specials featuring Mariah Carey, Lil Nas X, The Killers and more

Staying home because the usual Christmas parties have been cancelled this year?

You can still get into the Yuletide spirit by diving onto the sofa and into these new Christmas-themed entertainment offerings.

From festive songs by music stars such as Mariah Carey and feel-good movies starring Goldie Hawn to comedy skits by country music star Chris Stapleton and a charity drive by Singapore artists, here are 10 offerings you can stream online or watch on television.

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Christmas without leaving home: Shopaholic author Sophie Kinsella has new traditions for stay-home Christmas

"I'm a real sucker for Christmas," gushes Sophie Kinsella.

The best-selling British author of the frothy Shopaholic novels had penned her paean to the holidays, last year's Christmas Shopaholic, in which her heroine Becky Brandon nee Bloomwood is forced to plan a chaotic family Christmas.

'Tis the season for Christmas Shopaholic to rise up the bestseller charts again, along with Kinsella's latest romcom, Love Your Life, about a couple who fall in love at first sight but find it harder to accept each other's lifestyles.

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Christmas without turkey: Celebrate with roast chicken and mini logcakes instead

Move over, turkey. 'Tis the season to carve roast chicken and have a mini log cake with an intimate gathering of five people.

With many people celebrating at home, eateries have had to rethink their offerings for Christmas and prepare for a surge in takeaways and deliveries. After all, restaurants have been receiving bookings since October, and several are already full for the key Christmas Eve and Christmas Day meals.

These include The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore's Colony restaurant; Regent Singapore's Italian restaurant Basilico; and The Capitol Kempinski Hotel's 15 Stamford by Alvin Leung. Two-Michelin-starred French restaurant Saint Pierre and Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel's Marriott Cafe are full for Christmas Eve.

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Christmas without turkey: A different festive feast with laksa seafood pie

Seafood for Christmas is not outlandish at all.

Australians tuck into prawns and oysters at Christmas - it is summer Down Under and roasts are hard to contemplate in that heat.

Italian-Americans have The Feast Of The Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve, with seven types of seafood dishes. It comes from the Roman Catholic tradition of not eating meat on the eve of a feast day.

I am not religious, but seafood sounds like a plan.

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Christmas without turkey: Top 5 best laksa in Singapore

Wet weather brings with it a craving for hot and spicy food. And for many, laksa is top on the list.

The noodle soup, flavoured with a paste of chillies, shallots, garlic and candlenut and thickened with coconut milk, tickles the palate and warms you up when the mercury drops. And it feels less heavy than when ingested on a sunny day.

There are two types of laksa indigenous to Singapore, with one richer in coconut milk called Katong laksa after the area where it first became popular.

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