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01. Home for Christmas
FOR AS LONG as she can remember, Lynette Wong has always celebrated Christmas at home. It’s something her family looks forward to every year, to the extent that they’ve got the preparations down pat, following a clockwork-precise timetable each time.
Come late November, there is a seven to eight foot Noble fir taking pride of place in the foyer of her black-and-white house off Alexandra Road. By Dec 1, it will be fully decorated, just in time for her youngest daughter’s birthday. “We throw a party for her at home, so I like the tree to be ready by then too,” says the mother of three who owns 1B2G, a vintage furniture store.
Over the years, the family has grown its collection of Christmas tree ornaments, some of which are about 20 years old. The family’s two dogs, Lola the French bulldog and Hunter the labrador, also have their own personalised ornaments. Ms Wong also buys ornaments from Christmas markets overseas such as Lech, Austria, whenever she can. A stocking hangs on the tree, handmade by a relative for Bradley, the family’s first grandson. “My two daughters are jealous they don’t have anything like this,” says Ms Wong.
She sticks to a classic decor scheme, with Christmas wreaths hanging on the doors for a festive contrast to the house’s monochrome look. Leaves and red berries are twisted into wreaths for the dining table, artfully arranged with candles and a scattering of fluffy toy owls for effect. For a touch of fun, red and green santa hats are placed on figurines around the home.
For the family, Christmas Eve is usually a quiet dinner. “Christmas Day lunch is the big affair for us,” says Ms Wong. That is when her parents come over, and on some years, her cousins from Malaysia also pay a visit.
Her husband, Ben, and their three children are in charge of cooking the turkey, the highlight of their Christmas menu. The bird is brined for three to four days, according to a Heston Blumenthal recipe, which keeps the flesh juicy. On Christmas Eve, the four of them will prep the stuffing, and the vegetable stock that’s needed to make the gravy. Homemade side dishes include roasted potatoes, brussels sprouts with pancetta, buttered peas, and a sweet potato pie with marshmallows. There is also ham which is store bought. “Mulled wine is too warm for our weather, so we have champagne at lunch,” says Ms Wong.
After lunch, the family pop Christmas crackers, followed by the opening of presents. “Even till today, the kids are not allowed to open their presents at midnight,” says Ms Wong.
Even when the family is away on their annual ski holidays, Ms Wong always makes it a point for them to celebrate Christmas in Singapore. “Christmas is a special day for us, because we celebrate the birth of Christ. It is definitely not about the presents,” she says.
02. A Christmas with Family
For Mexican expatriate Maricruz Camez, Christmas is truly the most wonderful time of the year.
“It is my favourite season. As a Catholic, it marks the birth of Christ, and it is also a time when I get to spend time with my family in Mexico,” says the mother of three. Together with her husband, a vice president at an MNC, the family has lived in Singapore for the past decade.
Every year, the family heads back to Sonora, Ms Camez’s hometown in northwest Mexico. “The 28-hour journey involves three plane rides, but it is all worth it as we get to spend about three weeks with family,” she says.
On Christmas Eve, the family sits down to a home-cooked meal, which either Ms Camez’s mother or mother-in-law will cook. “We have turkey, pasta, salad, soup and lots of cakes,” says Ms Camez. As Sonora is located near the US, Ms Camez explains that the menu is more American-influenced.
Dinner starts late, at 10pm, and nearing midnight, the family would gather to pray and read from the Bible. “The fun bit comes next, when we would all gather around the Christmas tree and open our presents,” she says.
Even though Ms Camez won’t be celebrating Christmas in Singapore, she never fails to decorate her four-bedroom apartment in the Ardmore Park area. “My decor is up by November 1, as early as the decorations on Orchard Road,” she says with a laugh.
A nativity scene is always a must, and there is one on display in the living room. When it comes to dressing up the tree, Ms Camez opts for classic colours, red and green, but gives them a modern twist. “You don’t have to spend much on ornaments, I’ve even gotten some from supermarkets,” she says.
She likes hanging big baubles for a more dramatic effect. A bauble that she holds dear is one from Mexico, with the national colours of green, white and red, and the coat of arms. Elsewhere on the tree, there are five ornaments in the shape of a ribbon-wrapped present, representing the five family members. There are also three big snowflake ornaments, one for each child.
Instead of an angel or a star as the tree topper, Ms Camez has created one out of styrofoam balls, giving it a more avant garde look. Her tree is similar to the one her mother has at home in Mexico.
The Christmas tree is always a highlight for the family and Ms Camez’s friends, who eagerly await an invitation to see it. She has also helped her friends decorate theirs.
Ms Camez says she would love to have a fresh tree, but since the family is away for the festivities, they make do with an artificial one. “The scent of fir always brings me back to my childhood days, when we had fresh ones,” she says.
The decorations will all go back into the boxes shortly after the family return from their holiday in Mexico. “In the meantime, I like to sit by the tree at night, and watch the lights twinkling,” says Ms Camez.