SINGAPORE - Singapore's premier shopping district was a fairyland of lights on Friday (Nov 13) evening when President Halimah Yacob, with the press of a button, triggered the annual Christmas light-up in Orchard Road at 7.30 pm.
The shopping street, decked out with snow flakes, mistletoe and holly decorations, was gleaming with nearly 50km of LED street lights that stretched from Tanglin Mall to Plaza Singapura.
With the theme Love This Christmas, this year's light-up is a quieter affair owing to the scaling back of street activities, amid the coronavirus pandemic, to minimise crowds and ensure the safe health of shoppers.
But the festivities will continue virtually, with viewers at home able to experience "driving" along the 2.9km stretch in Orchard Road in a virtual tour featuring 360-degree views.
The light-up ceremony, held at the outdoor space at the entrance of Ion Orchard, was in support of the Community Chest (ComChest), with more than $1.6 million donated by corporate donors and individuals.
The money will benefit more than 80 social service agencies and 200 social service programmes supported by ComChest.
For the first time, 13 CapitaLand malls across Singapore will also have their own light-ups to bring the Christmas spirit to the heartlands.
The festive lights in Orchard Road will come on nightly from now until Jan 1 next year.
They will be turned on from 6.30pm to midnight (Sundays to Thursdays); 6.30pm to 2am (Fridays and Saturdays) and 6.30pm to 6am (Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve).
White and gold baubles and Christmas ornaments will add shine to the trees and lamp posts along Orchard Road. And a 14m-tall main arch, adorned with multiple glittering reindeer, will span the junction of Orchard Road and Paterson Road.
The light-up, which is in its 37th year, is organised by the Orchard Road Business Association.
Its chairman, Mr Mark Shaw, declined to disclose this year's budget, citing confidentiality agreements.
He, however, stressed instead that the aim of the event is to lift spirits in a challenging year when Singaporeans are also unable to travel during the year-end holidays.
ComChest chairman Phillip Tan said: "We may be physically apart this year for the Christmas light-up, but the community feels closer than ever, thanks to the rallying effort of our partners who have pledged their resources to help fundraise for our social service agencies.
"The pandemic will not diminish our spirit of solidarity."
Ms Nurshahidah Wee, 33, described the Christmas decorations in Orchard Road as "modest and minimalistic".
"It has a homely atmosphere and keeps up the Christmas tradition despite Covid-19," the fitness trainer said.