Nine years ago this month I was an underemployed, twenty-whatever lawyer on a low-budget tour of Asia with a friend of mine who lived (and still lives) in Osaka, Japan. One of the most enjoyable places I visited was the island city-state of Singapore. I often think of Singapore this time of year. One degree north of the equator, it was ninety degrees and humid the whole time. I stayed out of trouble because I have no interest in littering, spitting in public or committing acts of vandalism. Just enjoyed the weather, visited some museums and historic sites, and sampled delicious food in restaurants and (highly regulated) street kiosks.
In Singapore, the signs of Christmas were almost entirely secular, which isn't surprising because the majority of Singaporeans are Buddhist and neighboring Malaysia is a Muslim-majority country. Yet Christmas is the second most popular holiday in the country after Chinese New Year. Christmas Singapore style is pretty American -- Santa Claus and lots of shopping. It really makes you realize that while you hear a lot about putting Christianity back into Christmas, it will never happen because the reasons why Christmas is a big holiday have basically nothing to do with Christianity. It's about bringing business to the malls, period. That's certainly what makes it a holiday in Singapore.