The beautiful colonial style building, that comprises the Danish church in Singapore, is the perfect setting for a grand event like the yearly Christmas bazaar. With parked cars lined up a long way down the hill of Pender Road, the event was buzzing with Christmas shoppers, lunch guests munching on Danish smørrebrød, and playing children.
Fundraising for Tyfoon Victims
Visitors were asked to pay an entrance fee of one dollar at the door. This has traditionally been the very clever way of counting how many guests visit each day. This year, the church in cooperation with other Danish organizations in Singapore, took the opportunity to turn the entrance fee into a fundraising drive for Haiyan tyfoon victims in the Philippines. Visitors could make a donation of any size and receive a lucky draw number, which could bring luck at the end of that bazaar day. After the second day of the bazaar, the facebook page of the church announced the total amount that was raised by generous guests – a whopping 13,360 Singapore dollars! Together with donations from other corporate sponsors, the Danish contribution from Singapore to the victims of the catastrophe amounts to nearly 20,000 dollars.
Many Happy Volunteers
Several smiling Danish volunteers greeted all bazaar goers as they were swarming in. A festive feeling filled every corner of the building and its garden. Plenty of Christmas items crowded all shelves and tables in the room, many of which were hand made goods by Danish volunteers.
It is with great pride that the Chairman of the church, Tom Hansen, shows me around the premises and tells me the story of the highly appreciated event. Over a nice cup of coffee and the most delicious rice dessert with cherry sauce, Tom expresses his gratitude for the great effort that members of the Danish community put into the bazaar and its preparations. Over 70 people are involved in making the event a success, and according to Tom, this is one of the most important things that makes the whole venture such a satisfying experience.
Extended Opening Hours
Since two years, the Christmas bazaar is a two day affair. Before that, it used to be just one day – a crowded and hectic day for everybody involved. With the extension of an additional day, the whole event has become a much more enjoyable experience for both organizers and guests. As the Danish community in Singapore is an estimated 1600 people, and nearly all are expected to visit the bazaar, it makes very good sense to spread out the opening hours over a two day weekend. After the second day was over, the church reported a total of 1760 visitors during the two days – a 20% increase from the year before. An important factor in the success of the event is the marketing effort that is put in to spread the word.
Tasty Smørrebrød and Beer
An important part of the Christmas bazaar is the serving of Danish food. Most importantly, the world famous open sandwiches “smørrebrød” were served in six different kinds, along with Danish beer and aquavit. For dessert there was a selection of cakes as well as the traditional rice dessert, containing whipped cream and almonds. As many as 40 volunteers have been involved in baking bread and cakes for the event. There was no shortage of goodies to enjoy during the whole afternoon. Tables with lunch guests munching away on these delicacies were placed on the porch, nicely shaded by marquees.
Christmas Goods from Denmark
The Christmas items that are being sold at the bazaar are ordered from Denmark, and one of the tasks during the week long preparations leading up to the event weekend, is to unpack these. There were candles, candle holders, tree decorations, angels, napkins, advent wreaths, santas and much more. In addition to the ready bought items, volunteers spend many weeks creating handmade decorations during get-togethers at the church throughout the year.
Another attraction is all the Christmas food items that are especially provided at the bazaar. For many Danes, a visit at the church during the bazaar weekend is what will guarantee a truly Danish Christmas, complete with red cabbage and cherry sauce. Luckily, many food traditions are shared with the other Scandinavian countries, so even Swedes and Norwegians will have a chance to secure some of their fare here. I was happy to find the Danish liver pate, which is highly appreciated by my husband.
Christmas Fun for the Children
Not only grown-ups had fun at the bazaar. Plenty of fun activities were arranged for the children. They were able to make pretty Christmas decoration under supervision of cheerful volunteers, and there was a bouncy castle for all energetic kids to enjoy. Even Santa Claus paid a visit to the bazaar to all children’s delight.
Chairman Tom, who has been on his post for 8 years so far, explained how the funding for the church’s activities comes from three different sources: one third is subsidies from the Danish government, one third is sponsoring from their many corporate sponsors and donations, and one third is from membership fees and different activities by its members. In this last category, the yearly Christmas bazaar plays a significant role as a source for income. Once again, Tom expressed his great gratitude for all of those who help in different ways towards keeping this magnificent church running. A couple of years back, there was a bit of a scare, when they actually risked losing the tenant’s contract for the beautiful building that hosts the church, due to a decrease in subsidies from the Danish government. At this time, many members of the Danish community stepped up and showed their concern, which resulted in the opportunity to stay on Pender Road in one of Singapore’s most beautiful and unusual buildings.
Kirsten Hougaard Eistrup is the reverend at the church, who also has the responsibility of taking care of the spiritual needs of Danish seamen who arrive on Singaporean shores. She visits the port several times a week so that those with no time for immigration procedures also get a chance to see a priest after spending a long time at sea. Kirsten also tells me about co-operations with other entities, such as the seamen’s mission of other countries as well as other churches in Singapore. She has been on this post for three years so far, and feels very happy about all that it involves.
For the Sunday church service, the Swedish/Norwegian choir “Koriallverden” was invited to sing, as a nice mood setting prelude to a successful second day of the Christmas bazaar.