This year's Christmas light-up in Orchard Road, with the theme centred around Disney characters, has been criticised by Christian churches, prompting the Orchard Road Business Association (Orba) and Singapore Tourism Board (STB) yesterday to say they want "to initiate a conversation for both parties to better understand each other's views and perspectives".
In a statement last Monday, the general secretary of the National Council of Churches (NCCS), Reverend Dr Ngoei Foong Nghian, said it was concerned that the light-up, with its exclusive focus on Disney characters, "has no meaningful connection to the season of Christmas".
He called the move "particularly disappointing" in a letter addressed to STB chief executive officer Keith Tan.
Dr Ngoei said: "Christmas, at its heart, is a festival in the Christian calendar which commemorates the incarnation and birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."
In the letter, he said this year's light-up, the first of a three-year collaboration between Disney and the STB, has caused the original meaning of Christmas to be "buried under the thick layer of this extensive and sophisticated brand promotion exercise".
At this year's light-up, more than 20 Disney and Disney-Pixar characters such as Snow White and Cinderella, as well as the Toy Story characters Woody and Rex, can be seen on the arches that span the road.
The annual Christmas light-up kicked off on Nov 10 and is due to end on Jan 1.
NO CHRISTMAS CONNECTION
We are concerned that the light-up, with its exclusive focus on Disney characters, has no meaningful connection to the season of Christmas.
NATIONAL COUNCIL OF CHURCHES, in its letter to Singapore Tourism Board.
STB director for dining and retail Ranita Sundra and Orba executive director Steven Goh said in a joint statement issued yesterday that the light-up was one of several components of the Christmas on a Great Street event in Orchard Road.
Other aspects included The Great Christmas Village at Ngee Ann City's Civic Plaza, the Timbre x Food Village and Bar, and the Hitachi Santa House.
There were also several pop-up booths in Orchard Road, such as one run by NCCS associate member, Celebrate Christmas in Singapore.
"Together, these offerings provide a range of experiences for different groups of visitors, both Christians and non-Christians," said the statement.
It added that STB and Orba work with other partners every year to make the Orchard Road Christmas event "a distinctive and memorable affair with broad festive appeal" for all visitors to the street.
"This year's family-friendly, Disney-themed light-up follows the same approach, and is intended to complement the spirit of friendship and conviviality that we hope visitors will experience as they travel down Orchard Road," it said.
The Straits Times had earlier reported on some negative comments triggered by the light-up.
SPIRIT OF FRIENDSHIP
This year's family-friendly, Disney-themed light-up follows the same approach, and is intended to complement the spirit of friendship and conviviality that we hope visitors will experience as they travel down Orchard Road.
A JOINT STATEMENT by STB director for dining and retail Ranita Sundra and Orba executive director Steven Goh.
Some people shared the NCCS' sentiments that the characters and decorations were too overtly commercial, with too little emphasis on Christmas.
Earlier, when asked about the reception to this year's Christmas decorations, Orba said it had received positive feedback from people of all ages, especially from families with young children.
ST also interviewed experts who said Orba's partnership with Disney was well thought out and would be quite appealing to tourists visiting Singapore during the festive season.
In his letter, Dr Ngoei said the NCCS acknowledges that Christmas is celebrated by non-Christians and is seen as a time of feasting and gift-giving, but lamented that its treatment in Singapore has increasingly become secular and commercialised.
He also made a comparison between Christmas and other festivals with religious roots, such as Deepavali, Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Vesak Day, saying that they were carried out with less commercialisation.
He added that the NCCS was not against the use of Disney characters but "wonders if they should be the focus of what is essentially a Christian festival".