SINGAPORE – It had been a difficult year for Mr Abdul Rahim Safari, 56.
Like many others, the administration officer had to work longer hours due to new work from home arrangements, and could not go visiting or go for prayers at the mosque during Hari Raya. In addition, he was hospitalised in March for suspected appendix issues.
So Thursday’s (Dec 31) New Year’s Eve celebration with his family was something he had been looking forward to.
“The end of the current year will be like the closing to a chapter, starting a fresh one with the next,” the Yew Tee resident said.
He and his family joined the festivities virtually this year due to the pandemic.
“We were worried about the crowd, so we’d rather stay at home and keep ourselves safe while celebrating,” said Mr Abdul Rahim, adding that his mother-in-law is 86 years old and might have serious complications if she caught Covid-19.
“This year we have really suffered. My (New Year’s) wish is that Singapore will be free from Covid-19 and that we can enjoy ourselves as normal,” he said.
Mr Abdul Rahim and his family were among Singaporeans who rang in the new year with community countdown programmes in the heartlands, which went virtual for the first time.
Several of these included a livestream of fireworks displays in the neighbourhoods.
Financial consultant Edmund Chua, 45, and his family of four were among residents who could see the fireworks from their homes.
They had a top-down view of the display from his 44th-storey flat in Henderson Road.
Having gone through a difficult 2020 – his father died in October and he also had to wind up his travel business – Mr Chua said “the only way to go is up”.
“Hopefully in 2021, we get back towards normalcy and things will get better and better,” he added.
Barricades were seen around the heartland sites where fireworks were set off, with police and auxiliary officers, as well as community volunteers, helping with crowd control.
At Bishan, people gathered to watch fireworks launched from the open field next to the Junction 8 mall. Some came prepared with folding chairs, while others simply stood on the wet grass and waited.
One photographer, 24-year-old student Samuel Mok, said this was his first time celebrating New Year’s Eve back in Singapore, having studied overseas in the United Kingdom for the past three years.
“I actually like (the heartland celebration). Let’s say you go to Gardens by the Bay to take photos, it tends to get very crowded, and often it’s hard to get public transport back home. Here it’s closer to most residents, and for some of us as well there are more options to get home,” he said.
Dentist Sophia Yee, 33, had been waiting patiently with her camera since 10.30pm.
“I don’t mind the more muted celebrations – I don’t usually do much anyway, so the fact that there’s fireworks in the neighbourhood is nice,” she said.
Meanwhile, residents in Tampines were treated to an online concert with music performances and a game show, before the night ended with fireworks streamed from Our Tampines Hub.
The integrated community hub was buzzing with activity, with groups of friends and families gathered at the atrium and public spaces.
Retiree Tay Hock Lee, 75, was among residents who watched the concert at the atrium before going across the road to see the fireworks.
“My neighbours and I usually come here during celebrations like National Day and New Year’s, and it’s great that we can see the fireworks near our homes instead of travelling to town,” he said.
Student Rachel Wong, 17, said it was more crowded than expected, but she enjoyed the festive spirit at the community hub.
“After a year of so many ups and downs, it’s nice to celebrate a bit with friends and loved ones, and hopefully in 2021 things will get better,” she said, adding that she hopes leisure travel would resume by the end of the year.
While the usual firework display was absent from Marina Bay this year, the skies were illuminated with a special light display.
The collective projection of light rays, designed to symbolise unity, positivity and resilience, are meant to represent Singaporeans’ spirit in navigating the pandemic over the past year and determination to emerge stronger in 2021.
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