All set for Christmas in the heartland in Singapore

Christmas decorations at Blocks 702 and 703 in Bedok Reservoir Road on Dec 21 2020.
Christmas decorations at Blocks 702 and 703 in Bedok Reservoir Road on Dec 21 2020.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO
Mr Lim Beng Hua with his yearly Christmas creation at Block 722 Tampines Street 72 on Dec 20, 2020.
Mr Lim Beng Hua with his yearly Christmas creation at Block 722 Tampines Street 72 on Dec 20, 2020.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Canberra Grassroots volunteers with the Christmas tree they set up at Block 121 Canberra Street on Dec 18, 2020.
Canberra Grassroots volunteers with the Christmas tree they set up at Block 121 Canberra Street on Dec 18, 2020.ST PHOTO: JOEL CHAN

SINGAPORE - Residents in the heartland are celebrating Christmas by sprucing up their very own corner of Singapore.

From Sembawang in the north to Clementi in the west as well as Bedok, Tampines and Pasir Ris in the east, locals are adding their own lights and tinsel to decorations put up in Housing Board estates.

A 3.5 metre tall Christmas tree stands proudly in front of Block 702 Bedok Reservoir Road.

Constructed by residents who used steel reinforcing bars typically found in construction and a discarded gate, the tree is surrounded by four miniature reindeer figurines.

They also made a snowman out of a fibreglass mould, with its hands covered in knitted mittens.

Local resident Goh Siew Hua, 53, had initiated the project with her husband Cheah Kok Hwa, 57.

The co-owners of tentage company Xing Long Canvas Steel Tent and Engineering Services decided to build a tree that can withstand the elements.

They have been decorating the block for Christmas since 2011 with their neighbours.

"Everyone is very down this year. Some are jobless, some of the older residents have fewer visits from their family due to Covid-19 restrictions. Adding decorations to the tree gave people something to do,” said Ms Goh.

Ms Jesline Gan, a 39-year-old administrator, was among those who added her old Christmas ornaments to the tree.

"This is a way to de-stress after work. My neighbours and I have children about the same age, so we will chit-chat about them while decorating," she said.

While some polished old ornaments before hanging them up on the tree, others mended broken frisbees to give the snowman its eyes.

About 40 residents spent 10 days working on the project, which was completed on Dec 13.


While some polished old ornaments before hanging them up on the tree, others mended broken frisbees to give the snowman its eyes. 
ST PHOTO: JOEL CHAN

Visitors from as far as Bukit Panjang have been drawn to the lights which resident Tong Wee Hock, 40, helped to hang up.

The fibre optics sub-contractor said: "Those passers-by came all the way down to Bedok at 10pm to see our decorations after their friends posted a photo on social media. They thought the lights were in Orchard Road."

Over at Tampines, Mr Lim Beng Huat joined neighbours to put up Christmas decorations this year at Block 722 Tampines Street 72, to bring some joy to those who have had their travel plans thrown into disarray by the coronavirus outbreak.

For over 10 years, he has marked the season by brightening up his HDB block with tinsel and festive trimmings.

In pre-pandemic times, he would even hold a lighting-up ceremony and invite his neighbours to soak in the festive spirit.

The centre-piece this year is a 1.6m tall "snow-capped" church, which is flanked by Father Christmas figurines.

He had worked on the piece for two hours every night since September.

"People don't really know what traditions are for, they only think of getting gifts. Everyone should gather together and get to know each other better during the holidays," said Mr Lim, who runs an electrical works business.


Mr Lim joined neighbours to put up Christmas decorations this year at Block 722 Tampines Street 72. 
ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Housewife Nurashikin Mohamed, 37, who lives on the 10th floor of Block 722 agreed, adding: "This doesn't happen for other blocks... his decorations have become a conversation topic for our neighbours."

Clementi resident Philip Sobrielo Gene has livened up his part of town as well.

The freelance dance instructor, 40, teamed up with the Jurong-Clementi Town Council to decorate the empty space in front of his childhood home at Block 351 Clementi Avenue 2.


This year, Mr Sobrielo decked out a tree, which was provided by the town council, with plastic poinsettias and surrounded it with gift boxes big and small. 
ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA

A big change from 2018 when Mr Sobrielo was asked by the town council to remove from the second-storey ledge of the block a mannequin he had dressed up for Christmas.

He was allowed to keep the mannequin on the ledge after town council representatives saw that the decorations did not pose a safety issue.

This year, Mr Sobrielo decked out a tree, which was provided by the town council, with plastic poinsettias and surrounded it with gift boxes big and small.

"Christmas is a time for giving, whether it is presents, or money or time. My decorations are my way of giving back to the community whether they are of the faith," added Mr Sobrielo, who is Catholic.

Over in Canberra in Sembawang, Ms Luu Thi My Uyen, 43, led a team of 10 from the East Canberra Zone 2 Residents' Network to build a 3m tall Christmas tree structure using a metal frame and green netting.


Ms Luu led a team of 10 from the East Canberra Zone 2 Residents' Network to build a 3m tall Christmas tree structure using a metal frame and green netting. ST PHOTO: JOEL CHAN

"With the Christmas tree, we hope people can still come down with their families to take photos for the memories," Ms Luu, a permanent resident.

She is originally from Vietnam and has lived in Singapore for 17 years.

In Pasir Ris, too, a 6m tall Christmas tree and rows of fairy lights dazzle onlookers.


In Pasir Ris, a 6m tall Christmas tree and rows of fairy lights dazzle onlookers. ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA

About 40 merchants and hawkers from the Pasir Ris Drive 4 and 6 Merchants and Hawkers Association chipped in for the decorations.

"We don't know when Covid-19 will end but before we see the light, we still want to brighten up the spirits of our residents," said Mr Jin Kok Teng, 58, who is the association's treasurer.