The here and now and a bit of way back then

I relived my journey to 40 and found there's so much more to say

Tis still the season to be jolly

on December 27, 2013

The first yells of excitement I heard on Christmas Day morning did not come from my own children but from the children in the flat above ours! It was around 6am and still dark outside but Father Christmas/Santa had evidently made his visit upstairs and so must have been to ours too. Not long later, two very excited children were bellowing for us to come and get them as they saw their stockings were full and couldn’t contain their joy that Christmas Day had finally arrived!

#1 and 2 raced around the living room whooping at the presents Father Christmas/Santa had delivered. They marvelled at the mess left by the reindeers eating their carrots on the balcony and how Father Christmas/Santa ate his snacks and drank his milk and whiskey and discussed how he most probably had a nap on the couch before setting off again!

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Goodness knows how high the levels of excitement will hit next year when #3 gets to join in. I think the people on the ground floor, (we live on the 10th) will be able to hear them!

Christmas Day has always been a rambunctious affair in our family even though we are not practising Christians. (Are we anything?) For all the years up until I was about 12/13, a Christmas Miracle would occur. The takeaways would be closed for that one day of the year. One day off a year! Can you imagine? We would have roast duck, sweet and sour pork (Cantonese style to you and not the popular alternative sweet and sour pork balls in batter with the sauce on the side), dried shiitake mushrooms and scallops and a few other special dishes. Then after that, the grown ups would have to content themselves with several hours of mahjong because the casinos also take a break.

Traditional turkey seemed so exotic back then. Roast potatoes were a rarity on our dinner table. In fact I forgot to tell you the other day that my Dad, Mr Li doesn’t believe you can be full without eating rice. Not pasta, nor potatoes, nor bread can convince him otherwise. But now my Uncle Eyes makes a huge effort to cook a full on Christmas dinner for at least 12 every year. I think he’s rather proud of his efforts. He stands hands on hips and properly likes you to admire his big bird.

This year we had a family Christmas dinner at home with just the five of us. A roast chicken instead of turkey but with all the festive trimmings. Half of which are still lurking in the fridge! The kids were only interested in the chicken and two roast potatoes with cranberry sauce sitting in a Yorkshire pudding.

The first Christmas Day we spent in Singapore was at the beautiful Fullerton Hotel. I’d never seen anything like it! Champagne Brunch on Christmas Day in a posh hotel? There was so much sumptuous food that looked amazingly inviting. But I was 8 and a half months preggers with #1 and regretfully couldn’t do it justice. There was no room around #1 to fit in much food, booze was off limits and so were many other food items. As Husband decrees at any Champagne Brunch, high value goods only which usually means seafood, wagyu beef roast, sashimi, sushi and cheese and definitely no filling up on bread products. It’s a highly defined art. You need a plan before you go in because you can’t possibly get through all the food stations which leaves you feeling slightly bereft. So you must reconcile yourself from the start to the areas you’re not going to get to and have no regrets.

Then children arrived and years two, three, four and five was spent with friends with small children too because in lieu of having family around us, it’s good to spend this special day with special people we know. If there is one thing I find missing at Christmas, it’s the presence of family. For them to share the joy of the excitement that fills a home when small children have been promised so much. Gingerbread man for breakfast? Yes of course! (Incidentally #1 asked for a gingerbread man this morning and was denied, ‘but we were allowed to the other day?’, yes, thankfully it’s just for one day.) The other reason to spend Christmas with family is for the extra pair of hands in the kitchen but I figured some of the children can take on some of the jobs next year using a round ended knife.

In saying that, the children have always had really good Christmas’ because their best part is being with their friends. They get gifts, eat ‘special treats’ all day long and then get to hang out with their mates. How brilliant a Christmas is that?

This year a very brave family invited another nine sugar infused three to five year olds for a Christmas gathering at their home, the day before doing a long haul, two part journey with three kids back to the UK! It was brilliantly raucous. For the kids that is. Not the adults. Though the beer and wine were flowing swiftly.

So I’m rather glad I managed to downsize the Boxing Day ham because I wouldn’t have had a pan big enough to boil it in! As the ham is always bigger than my head, it’s much better to share it with another family and this year we took it round to Mrs Cake Pops. She had a neighbour pop round who said they had the same sized ham to feed 15. Thankfully ham is very versatile. I think I enjoy Boxing Day ham far more than Christmas Day turkey. There’s a much more relaxed air about Boxing Day. You can have a plate of as many mismatched food items as you like. This too has to be done with care though because you don’t want any of your sauces mingling with the wrong sort of meat. Keep your coleslaw on the side of your cold cuts and far away from the turkey and gravy. If you find this a challenge, you are allowed a slice of bread to act as plate divider.

Christmas has always been a very favourite time of year for me. From when it was the only day off for my family to the delight it is for my own children now.

Sometimes though when the shops start displaying their Christmas wares a bit too early or you’ve heard Slade screeching ‘It’s Chriiistmas’ on the radio for the umpteenth time (though this never happens in Singapore I have to say, it’s usually ‘I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus’), it can feel quite overwhelming. Then all of a sudden, it’s over for another year. There’s peace and quiet and no more lists to be made. In fact, it’s then that a glass of something extra cold should be enjoyed to celebrate the end of a good day.

I hope you all enjoyed yours the way Christmas should be enjoyed.

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