Expat Life

Scenes From A Singapore Christmas + An Announcement

Scenes From A Singapore Christmas

Satay roasting on an open fire. Sweat droplets dripping from your nose. Construction carols being sung by heavy equipment hire. And folks dressed up in very little clothes.

Sorry, I’ve never been particularly skilled at rhyming, so that’s the best I’ve got for you. But if you ask me, it’s still a fairly accurate depiction of a Singapore Christmas…for those of us used to a more northern hemisphere Christmas anyway!

Since we returned to the US for Christmas last year, this year’s Christmas was the first one we actually got to spend in our new country. And despite my terrible attempt at a humorous ‘Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire’ parody, celebrating Christmas in Singapore wasn’t actually all that bad. In fact, it was pretty darn amazing. (Once we got used to the fact that the weather was never going to feel very Christmasy.)

Scenes From A Singapore Christmas

The holiday season officially begins in Singapore the first week of October. That’s when the Christmas lights and decorations start going up on Orchard Road and stores begin advertising their holiday sales. It’s a little early if you ask me, but I can’t really say anything. We never even took our Christmas lights down after last year’s Christmas. They’ve stayed up all year under the guise of being “party lights”. Which might have been believable were we the sort of people who threw parties and not the sort of people who were just too lazy to take their Christmas lights down, but whatever. The point is, Singapore starts Christmasing early, which meant when my parents came to visit in mid-November, it felt like they’d come for Christmas.

Scenes From A Singapore Christmas

Scenes From A Singapore Christmas Scenes From A Singapore Christmas

Shortly after my parents left, we celebrated Thanksgiving and, as usual, spent the weekend afterwards Christmasifying our apartment. (No, I don’t leave my Christmas tree up all year long. I might be lazy, but I’m not that lazy. Mostly because there’s no way I can pass my Christmas tree off as anything other than a Christmas tree, though.)

Because everything in our apartment is white – the floors are white marble, the walls are white concrete, and the cabinets are white plastic-y things – and we don’t own much of anything people would classify as “decorative”, our apartment spends 11 months of every year looking a little stark. But not in December! I love how our mismatched, literally falling apart at the seams Christmas decorations breathe a little life into this mental hospital place we call home.

Scenes From A Singapore Christmas

Scenes From A Singapore Christmas

Since we’d made no travel plans for the month of December, we were left with four weekends to fill here in Singapore leading up to Christmas. And fill them we did. We managed to cover pretty much every single Christmas event and activity Singapore has to offer, the best of which was absolutely Christmas Wonderland. It was our second year going and I loved it even more this time around. Christmas markets, holiday light shows, faux snow storms, SANTA! – they pretty much cover all the necessary Christmas bases and then some. If we hadn’t had so many other things on our Christmas to-do list, I would have gone back again. (Click here to see all the fun things we got up to this month!)

Scenes From A Singapore Christmas

Like every other year, I started this holiday season with the best of intentions in regards to baking. I had my recipes saved in a special folder on my computer. I’d checked to make sure I could get all the ingredients here in Singapore. And then, like every other year, I completely ran out of time. I ended up baking something sweet and Christmasy just once. And it only got crammed in there at the very end out of necessity. I mean, it’s not a proper Christmas dinner without a dessert, right?

Speaking of Christmas dinner, I made the truly genius decision of making Christmas dinner this year on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day and now I may never cook again on Christmas Day. Yeah, it meant we had leftovers on Christmas Day, but you guys, it’s leftovers! Who doesn’t love those? And I got to spend the whole day relaxing with this crew of awesome people…

Scenes From A Singapore Christmas Scenes From A Singapore Christmas

Scenes From A Singapore Christmas

Scenes From A Singapore Christmas Scenes From A Singapore Christmas

Best. Christmas. Morning. Ever. (Okay, maybe it ties for first with this one actually.)

Like usual, I was the first one up and had to wait hours for everyone else to remember it was Christmas and get out of bed. We had McDonald’s sausage biscuits and hash browns for breakfast which sounds like something sad people do, but the rules change a little when you’re an expat. Then we opened gifts and, for the first time ever, I didn’t take any photos of the process because we were having so much fun. But don’t you worry, I made sure afterwards to take a series of (mostly unfortunate-looking) family photos that only got worse the more we took. I’ve spared you the uglies here, but make no mistake, they are saved for eternity on my hard drive. Every time I look back at them, I get the giggles all over again.

Scenes From A Singapore Christmas Scenes From A Singapore Christmas

Thanks to all our hard work in the kitchen on Christmas Eve, we were free to spend all of Christmas Day watching Harry Potter (as per tradition), snacking, and playing games. It was, as one always hopes for this time of year, a truly perfect day. Which is probably why I’m feeling a little more wistful than usual now that it’s over.

As I write this two days post-Christmas bliss, I find myself missing Christmas not only because it won’t come around again for another 363 days, but also because it was our last as expats. That’s right. After five years of living overseas, we are going “home”. If that announcement comes as a surprise, you’re not alone. Considering we were on a contract that would have carried us through the summer of 2020 here in Singapore, it has certainly surprised our family that didn’t expect to have us back for a few more years. And to be perfectly honest, that we would ever have chosen to willingly give up our expat status has surprised us quite a bit, too!

Some day I may explain in more detail the things which led us to this decision, but for now I’ll just make it short and sweet and say that we had reached a point where the reasons to leave had simply become greater and more important than those to stay. Despite current feelings of nostalgia, most likely holiday-induced, we are actually thrilled to be moving “home” in a few months. (Sorry, home still feels relative these days, hence the quotes.) For almost five years I’ve watched expat friends head back to their home countries at the end of their contracts, and it always seems to go one of two ways. People are either happy to be going home, or they feel like they’re being made to leave what has ultimately become home. Knowing our personalities, I always feared we’d be in the latter group when our time was up, but now that we’re here, I’m thankful to be able to say we belong in the former.

I have so much more I could say about all this, and it probably seems a bit strange to drop such a big announcement and say so little about it, but it’s the holidays and I desperately need to get back to my bag of caramel popcorn and cheesy Hallmark Christmas specials. I promise to share more when the call of laziness and gluttony isn’t so strong. Happy new year, guys!

P.S. For those of you that don’t know, “home” is Nashville. :)

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19 Comments

  • Reply
    Cynthia
    December 28, 2017 at 5:06 AM

    Merry Christmas, Sarah! I loved the holiday recap and all the sweet pictures. And what a big announcement! Will you stay to finish out the school year? (or perhaps in Singapore, the school year is different to ours, hm) Whenever it happens, I am glad you fall into the former camp as well. I think for many people (especially including myself), it’s really tough to discern whether staying or going is best. Happy you’ve found that elusive clarity to make the best choice for your family.

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      December 28, 2017 at 5:21 PM

      I should have been more specific about when we’re leaving, but we don’t actually have a set date yet. It’ll be sometime next summer, though, so Lex will definitely get to finish the school year out here! (Her school is on the same schedule as the US, but most local schools are like Australia and begin in January.) I feel incredibly grateful that our choice to move overseas five years ago and our decision to go home next year were both so obvious. I am one of the world’s most indecisive people. I can spend weeks deliberating over the smallest of decisions, but thankfully the big ones always seem to come much easier!

  • Reply
    Ashley | Domestic Fashionista
    December 28, 2017 at 7:07 AM

    Going home??? So exciting! Glad to hear this is good news for you all!

    Looked like a lovely Christmas! I am all about having “eve” dinners versus on the day. This is the first time I cooked Christmas dinner for us on Christmas day and we had a very whiny one year old during it! That will have to change next year!

    As always, I look forward to the new adventures to come back in the US!

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      December 28, 2017 at 5:24 PM

      We’ve been missing the ease of living in the US and our friends and family there for quite awhile now, so it’s time. And I have no doubt we’ll be expats again someday…just without Lexie on that round. :(

      I remember you are a Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve celebrator! Very smart idea. I loved being able to do nothing all day on Christmas!

  • Reply
    Angelique VanWaarde
    December 28, 2017 at 10:35 AM

    That did came as a suprise! I had expected you were relocating or something when I saw your FB post. You guys must be excited to go home! I remember it being so weird to go home after living abroad for a year.

    Oh and I love your christmas shots, it looked like so much fun!

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      December 28, 2017 at 5:25 PM

      I’m expecting it will be quite an adjustment for all of us, but especially Lexie who was 10 the last time she lived in the US. She’ll be 16 when we return! We’re all looking forward to being back for awhile, though. We’ve missed it!

      And thank you! :) Hope you have a happy new year!!

      • Reply
        Angelique VanWaarde
        January 22, 2018 at 1:47 PM

        That will be an adjustment for her, but I bet she is excited to live in the States! I can imagine you have missed it, you are fortunate that you can move there again.

  • Reply
    Emma @ AdventuresofaLondonKiwi
    January 1, 2018 at 10:45 AM

    Bring on the next chapter! I hope you have a wonderful 2018!! xx

  • Reply
    Tammy Chrzan
    January 1, 2018 at 8:41 PM

    Girl, you crack me completely up!! Your Christmas song is ON POINT! love it… lol. I am loving the pretty flowered dress, you clean up good!! Starting Christmas in October, does seem a bit early, but if you’re going to celebrate, hey, might as well go all out! Right? Anyway, how can you say you’re lazy? Fairy lights yo! They are all the rage right now! :) Anyway, to me, it looks like Singapore knows how to do Christmas RIGHT! OH and regarding Christmas Eve, we did the same thing!! We also decided this year that we would always have our big meal on Christmas Eve and eat leftovers on Christmas Day, that way, we are all refreshed and relaxed when we have to go back to work. See… great minds think alike!
    I know your expat “on hold” status will be a wonderful and beautiful experience, I wish you all of the luck in that, I’m glad you feel peace in it. I hope you and your family have a very prosperous and amazing New Year.

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      January 2, 2018 at 3:16 AM

      I think I’ve had that dress for a whole decade now. Probably time for me to go shopping, actually. :)

      Thank you so much for the best wishes for our repatriation! I am really looking forward to all the changes coming our way this year! I hope you have the very best 2018 as well! xx

      • Reply
        Tammy Chrzan
        January 18, 2018 at 3:22 PM

        You’ve been the same size for 10 years? I comfort eat. I need a 12 step program I think… lol… or for someone to slap food out of my hands!!!

        • Reply
          Sarah Shumate
          January 19, 2018 at 3:26 PM

          Pretty much! I go up and down a few pounds here and there, but I can still wear the same clothes. Sometimes they just look better on me than other times. ;)

  • Reply
    April @ aprileveryday
    January 5, 2018 at 7:17 AM

    That’s so exciting that you guys are returning home and I’m glad that you’re all happy about your decision too! It’ll be interesting to read your blog after you’ve moved, as I started reading back when you were in London so I can’t wait to see more of the USA, especially Nashville!

    Your Christmas sounds amazing too, and I actually love the idea of having christmas dinner on christmas eve instead! I’ve been binge watching Harry Potter too over the Christmas break like tradition haha!

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      January 6, 2018 at 12:27 AM

      Yay! Glad we’re not the only people who can’t have a Christmas without Harry Potter! :)

      I’m pretty excited to see more of the US, too. I’ve hardly seen any of it, so it’s going to be as new as Europe was when we arrived in London 5 years ago! Thanks so much for reading for so long, even with my extremely long absences. :)

  • Reply
    Mrs. Match
    January 15, 2018 at 9:13 PM

    OH wow, big announcement! That’s exciting that you’re coming “home”. Does that mean you’re going back to the farmhouse? Or will you have to search for something new? Also, I cannot believe how grown up Lexie looks, especially with contacts. She’s going to be DRIVING when you get home. Woah.

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      January 16, 2018 at 12:03 AM

      No, unfortunately! We sold that house and all the land when we moved 5 years ago, so we’ll be starting from scratch. Since we don’t intend on staying in Nashville permanently right now, we’ll probably just buy a little 2-bed townhome that we can rent out when we move again in a few years. I don’t ever want to have to sell a house again. :)

      Tell me about it. It’s crazy how it sneaks up on you like that. She was 10 when we moved away. Now she’s practically an adult.

  • Reply
    kristen
    February 3, 2018 at 5:17 AM

    I’ve just discovered your blog and am loving catching up! Can I ask what your husband does for work? I’m always so curious what jobs allow people to move countries, which is a dream.

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      February 3, 2018 at 6:55 PM

      Thanks so much for reading! My husband is an accountant for a mobile phone insurance company. His company has offices in several countries which is how we’ve been able to live in both London and Singapore. I think that’s really the key – finding a job within a company that is global vs national, and then obviously having a skill that makes you worth transferring to another location. :)

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