It’s the most wonderful time of the year again, and Singtel has released yet another festive short film to pull at our heart-strings while reminding us to connect with our loved ones (via a Singtel mobile phone hopefully? ).
Despite them being pop-up ads that interrupt my regular YouTube videos, I did enjoy these short films and have even shed a tear or two in the process. Singtel is the only ISP that does these Christmas stories and I applause them for making them to remind us of the little (often-forgotten) things behind the celebration and the gifts. In an overly-commercialized holiday, the temptation is always to focus on the gifts but forget the sacrifice of the giver.
So prepare your tissue paper as we walk down memory lanes with these Singtel Christmas stories over the years…
2016 – The First Gift
“The First Gift” was the first video I could find on this series of festive stories and it centered around a child who seemed to have received her first Christmas present at a party away from home. Don’t we all love receiving presents, but the reaction of this little girl is a little different from ours – she seemed genuinely confused by the gift and instead of opening it, she mimicked the givers and presented the gift to all her imaginary toy friends at home.
Later on, the little girl started noticing the Christmas decorations and gift wrappers during her outings to the mall. She observed that you can choose what to put into the gifts hidden within the wrappers and the ribbons, and she proceeded to use the material she got from her first gift to make a gift of her own… for someone. That someone turned out to be her mother who found her and the first gift she gave – a illustration of her family.
The story ends with the line “Do you remember the first gift you gave?” and it was when I’d realized the first gift in the story is one that you cannot possibly remember as it is found in the memory of our childhood belonging to our parents.
2017 Ah Ma’s Christmas
The second story focused on an Ah Ma (grandmother) who lives with her son’s family (probably after her husband has passed). Ah Ma seemed to be the only member of the family interested in putting up Christmas decorations as her request for assistance gets turned down one after another by her grandchildren too busy with their phones.
While continuing on her own, she found an old gift still in its wrappers deep inside her accessory drawer. It was an iPhone that she has stored away thinking she had no use for it. Hoping that the phone may allow her to communicate with her grandchildren, she took it out and tried to get her son to teach her how to use it. He too was too busy with work as he slowly closed the door on her. Ah Ma had to ask a neighbour for help. She learnt how to take photos and videos and how to share them with her friends.
Later during dinner that evening, she was shocked to find out that her video was accidentally sent to her grandson instead. It was a video of her trying to tell her family that she was preparing their favorite food on Christmas Eve as she broke down into tears and sadly complained that “they are so busy…”
The family finally realized how Ah Ma felt about their ‘mobile addiction’ and took extra effort to put away the phone and acknowledge her at the table. Victorious, Ah Ma went on to show off her new found mobile skill and asked to take a “selfie” with the family. It is the story of how someone overcame the difficulty of learning new technology in order to connect with the loved ones who they risk losing to a mindless adoption of the same technology.
2018 – Grace’s White Christmas
The third installment of these stories took a different turn as we see an Indian man, probably a former musician turned street busker prepares for work in a Santa Claus costume. “Loser” he called himself in the mirror as he picks up his Jack Russell Terrier and heads off to a pedestrian underpass where buskers usually perform.
The scene switched to a supermarket where a talkative little girl questions her aunt continuously about how Santa Claus operates. She tries to reconcile how a Western Santa Claus could use the HDB rubbish chute instead of chimneys to deliver presents (something every child growing up in Singapore would have thought of at one point or another).
It was then she saw the Indian Santa carrying a dog with a ribbon around its neck walk past the supermarket. With the dexterity of a ninja, she left the supermarket and followed Santa to where he would take selfies and perform for stingy parents and their kids. The little girl decides to ask for her present – the dog! Her dad had told her Santa would be giving her a puppy and she assumed this dog was it. Indian Santa got angry with this self-entitled girl and told her to go away. More shocked than upset, the little girl stood at a distance listening to Santa’s half-hearted medley of Carols but eventually was allowed to play with the dog.
Seeing the little girl’s desire to hang around, Santa asked the little girl to look after his dog while he went off to buy lunch. It was then a bunch of bullies arrived and tried to steal Santa’s guitar. The little girl tried to stop them and became the bullies new target. Santa eventually returned and chased the bullies away.
Making sure the little girl is alright, Santa asked her why she wouldn’t go home. The little girl complained that her parents had no time for her, to which Santa responded that at least she had parents because he had no one. In her innocence, the little girl told Santa he did not need parents because he is (the all sufficient, gift giving) Santa!
Hearing this, Indian Santa finally loses it and confessed that he is not Santa. He was just an unlucky man who has nothing good happen to him. The little girl starts weeping as her fantasy Santa fell apart in front of her, leaving her to confront the loneliness that she has felt during this Christmas season spent with her babysitting aunt.
Feeling bad for making the little girl cry, Indian Santa looked at his dog for the last time and gave the dog to the little girl. It’s not like he really wanted a dog anymore than he wanted to be Santa Claus. At least by giving the dog away, someone will be truly happy…
Snow began to fall and the words Sometimes magic happen when we connect fades across the screen, and we are reminded that no matter how little we have in life, we still have the ability to make someone’s wish come true and that is the magic of Christmas.
2019 – The Gift
Finally we are at this year’s short film simply titled “The Gift”. The story revolves around a teenage girl and her parents who watched helplessly on the side as the teenager spends more and more time with her friends rather than with her family. This is the story of all agonizing parents who have witnessed their children turn into teenagers.
To keep being relevant in her life, the parents resorted to giving her money whenever she needs it, even when it means taking on an extra shift on Christmas Eve. While it looked like 21st century bad-parenting (and it is), the circumstances in the story were always unexpected and urgent such that any caring parent would not deny their children help with.
Eventually, enough was enough, and the father had to confront the mother about her self-sacrificial behavior that is clearly affecting her sleep and health. The mother confessed that it was not what she wanted to do but she don’t know what else to do as she saw her daughter drifting further and further away from them.
That few seconds of silence between the parents (pondering what to do) was felt by parents of teenagers all over the world.
Thankfully, the forgetful teenager overhead the whole conversation from behind the walls. Without a phone to distract or hide behind, she heard the genuine love of her parents clearly for the first time. Embarrassed, she went into her room hoping to grab her Dad’s phone and make a quick escape, but what she found was a brand new (expensive) iPhone that her mother has bought for her. It was too much to take in and the teenager tried to return the gift to her mother for the first time. She decides to have dinner at home and you can say it was the first time she see the things her parents give her as a gift.
Just to clearify, I am not a Singtel staff or customer when I was writing this. I am just full of gratitude for these stories and the meaning they bring to the holidays. Merry Christmas! and remember to connect with people you really appreciate this season.