SINGAPORE - Santa Claus on the roof, reindeer on the pavement and twinkling multi-coloured lights hanging from unit to unit have turned Luxus Hill Drive into a Christmas wonderland.
For the second year in a row, residents of 72 units banded together to bring Christmas cheer to their Seletar estate.
“Village chief” Johnson Heng said the idea of decorating the estate was started by him and nine other households in 2020 to promote bonding and lift spirits in the community.
“We really just want to bring cheer and joy to the neighbourhood, and in the spirit of giving, provide the neighbourhood with decorations to get everyone in the festive mood,” said the 69-year-old, adding that more than 90 per cent of residents agreed to fund the cost of the lights.
Mr Dennis Wong, who lives at one end of the street, also rallied residents to participate in the Luxus Hill light-up. The 48-year-old told The Straits Times that he hopes to continue doing this regularly with his neighbours as it has become a tradition.
“I’m really blessed to have such lovely neighbours. It is so rare for neighbours to be close like this and I really treasure this community,” said Mr Heng, quipping that he will not be moving out any time soon.
Having moved into the estate only in late-2021, Mr Ryan Cheah, 23, said he has enjoyed seeing large-scale decorations in the street for many different festivals.
“It’s a nice feeling coming home every day, seeing the streets lit up and watching all my neighbours gather, taking pictures and bonding over the decorations.
“It creates an atmosphere of homeliness and cohesion among the community and gives life to the neighbourhood, getting everyone in the holiday spirit.”
He added that he and his family have contributed to the decorations since they moved in.
The Luxus Hill Drive initiative has set off a chain reaction in the area. Decorations are springing up in neighbouring streets.
Meanwhile in the east, residents are pulling together to bring the festive spirit to Block 702 Bedok Reservoir Road.
The annual tradition started in 2010. What began as just wall decorations have become more elaborate – with lights, Christmas figurines and candy canes.
Most of the items are donated by residents, with some making them out of recycled materials. Air-conditioning pipes are used to recreate candy canes, and ornaments are made with plastic bags or fruit wrappers.
Madam Sandy Goh Siew Hua, 54, a part-time clerk, has spent more than 10 years helping to bring Christmas cheer to the estate.
“We hardly have enough funds to buy new decorations, but all these are the efforts of the residents here,” she said, pointing proudly to the ornaments.
Residents also hold parties and potluck gatherings. But their community spirit is not welcomed by all. While most of the neighbours welcome the fairy lights and get-togethers, there have been complaints.
Madam Goh said the authorities have been called to the block many times on charges of illegal gathering, or for improper use of electricity to power the lights.
But the tight-knit community has remained steadfast. “Most times, I will inform the town council and our MP, who will support us,” said Madam Goh.
And despite the complaints, most residents here enjoy the festive cheer that such community projects bring.
Mr Cheah Kok Hwa, Madam Goh’s husband, recalled one year when the group was late in putting up the Christmas decorations.
“Residents came to tell us Christmas was approaching, and we needed to start on it,” said the 58 year-old in Mandarin.
The couple also pays for the permits needed to put up the display, and asks for contributions from other residents only when the bill exceeds $200.
Madam Low Cheng Hong, 85, said in Mandarin: “Doing this (decorating the block) makes me feel closer to my neighbours. It brings back memories of the days of living in a kampung.”
Working on a smaller scale, electrician Lim Beng Huat has been dressing up the corridor outside his unit in Block 722 Tampines Street 72 for nearly two decades.
Using materials such as discarded cardboard boxes, Mr Lim, 73, makes Christmas decorations such as gingerbread houses and sleighs.
In 2022, his displays are more elaborate following the muted celebrations of the last two years because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It is especially important this year to bring people out of their houses to take pictures and get into the festive spirit,” said Mr Lim. “I really just want to make people happy and to bring some life to the neighbourhood.”