Singapore. Christmas Wonderland, Singapore's yuletide fair by Blue Sky Events, officially opened its gates for the public on Saturday (02/12), treating tourists to Christmas-themed light decorations, family activities and spectacles until Dec. 26.
Located at Gardens by the Bay in central Singapore, the fourth Christmas Wonderland offers visitors a chance to take memorable photos with Santa Claus in front of his porch at Santa's Grotto, play on a 240 square-meter synthetic outdoor skating rink, enjoy a performance by Circus Abyssinia from Ethiopia, as well as nibble on Michelin-starred dishes at relatively low prices at Savour.
"We wanted an event that didn't look as if we were forcing something into the garden. We want it to look as if it grew out of the garden," Sarah Martin, Blue Sky Events director, told the Jakarta Globe on the sidelines of the opening night.
The highlight, however, is the festival's centerpiece of light sculpture made with towering woods and 252,000 light bulbs by Italian craftsmen from Namaste Europa at the heart of Christmas Wonderland ground, called Spalliera. The Spalliera also hosts Blizzard Time — a snow-like foam floating in the air — five times a day, bringing the feel of a wintry Christmas in the tropical city-state.
Creating a Tradition
Shalini, a Singaporean, told the Globe that she has gone to Christmas Wonderland with her husband for the past two years. She is one of hundreds of thousands of Singaporeans who have made Christmas Wonderland an annual holiday tradition.
Martin, the Blue Sky Events director, said the first Christmas Wonderland was not only a hit event that saw 900,000 people attend during the four-week festival, but also a learning experience for the organizer to cater to people's needs and preferences. A small team of 20 researched and curated inspirations from festive markets in cities like Birmingham (UK) and Paris (France).
The event's popularity spread beyond Singapore to other countries in Southeast Asia and all over the world. Still, the popularity created a problem of its own during the festival's second year.
"Everybody was very much in a good cheer but we knew as a model it was not sustainable to grow any larger so we had to do capacity control because the notion of Christmas Wonderland is supposed to be a year-end celebration of family and friends," she said.
After hosting the event for free over the past two years, Christmas Wonderland has tried to limit its visitors to about 25,000 people a day by charging a $4.45 entrance fee.
Martin expects about 500,000 visitors this year, about the same number as last year.
An Experience for Everyone
"We have to have that relaxed environment. Do be mindful that we do have a lot of little children [...] elderly folks, people brought in their grandparents and it was quite a nice thing because you'll see multi-generation families here," Martin said.
According to Martin, pictures and words can't do justice to Singapore's end-of-year festival as it offers a unique experience for each part of the family at different times of the day.
"There is a magical moment just before dusk," Martin said, noting her favorite time is when the lights are on but the sky remains partially bright and tinted with an orange glow.
Those who come can also enjoy a dining experience at Savour: Christmas Wonderland, which features celebrity chefs from Michelin-starred restaurants such as Shoukouwa — which has two Michelin stars — Saint Pierre — which has one — Monti, Wildseed Cafe, Bee's Knees @ Garage, Pollen, Salted and Hung, Meat Smith and Audace.
Various menus are available with prices starting at $4.45.
The Jakarta Globe was invited to Singapore on Dec. 1-3 by Blue Sky Events.