Friday, December 23, 2011

Malls and luxury hotels decked out for Christmas

An imported Christmas tree. Santa taking wish lists from children. Fake snow and carols at shopping malls. Christmas is serious business in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation.

Malls and luxury hotels in Jakarta are offering holiday deals and are decked out for Christmas, with shoppers at the sprawling Taman Anggrek mall even surrounded by fake snow drifting from the ceilings in the tropical country.

At the same mall earlier this week, about two dozen uniformed Salvation Army volunteers collected donations for the needy, as a caroler regaled shoppers with "Jesus, Lamb of God."

The vast majority of Indonesians are moderate Muslims with only eight percent Christian even though recent years have seen a spate of religious attacks in the country of 240 million people.

Last year the Christmas decorations caught the eye of the official Indonesia Ulema Council, the country's top Islamic body, which complained the decorations in malls, hotels and other public places were "excessive and provocative."

So far this year the MUI has remained quiet about the Christmas glitz.

Taking advantage of the retail opportunities over the Christmas period, malls in big cities such as Jakarta, Surabaya and Bandung have been offering midnight sales to lure late-night spenders.

"People usually buy many presents before Christmas. We held midnight sales to give shoppers more opportunity to spend their money," said Astri Permatasuri, public relations manager at the capital's Plaza Indonesia mall.

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