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.)
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.
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.
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!)
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…
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.
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. :)