All my friends and family know that I’m a Christmas-a-holic (yes, it’s a word!). I love all of it, and now that we have two children, it’s all the more special. My husband was a bit of a Scrooge when we met – never really keen to make a fuss; but it didn’t take long for me to infect him with the Christmas spirit.
I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to the rituals of the season: pudding Sunday a month before, a fresh tree going up no earlier than the 1st of December, nothing but Christmas carols in the week leading to the day, and so on. I’ve adapted a few old traditions and adopted a few new ones since I left home, but the one thing I found really hard to embrace was Christmas in Hong Kong.
Our first year here, we had fairly recently arrived when Christmas came around, so spending it in Hong Kong made sense. We had good friends staying with us – and copious quantities of alcohol – but it just wasn’t the same.
We headed back home in 2008 for an Aussie Christmas, but in 2009 we had a three-week-old baby so another Hong Kong festive season was our only option.
The following year we spent most of December in Australia, but with my husband having to work Boxing Day we decided to fly back to Hong Kong on the 22nd for Christmas here once again. With an Aussie Christmas so tantalisingly close that year, it was very hard to get on the plane. Still, being in our own home, just the three of us, around the tree, doing our own thing, it strangely felt right.
In the early years, when I would complain about being “stuck” in Hong Kong, I tried to make the best of what I felt was a bad situation by celebrating the fact that it was cold, and baking every hot Christmas treat I could find a recipe for.
The mulled wine and mince pies worked their magic and, every year since, as our family has grown and we’ve made ourselves more at home, we’ve added to our list of Christmas-in-Hong-Kong traditions: we watch the light show on the harbour – all the more extravagant at this time of year; we take a tour of the shopping centres to find the gaudiest decorations, and we always buy a tree from our local supermarket.
The first year we bought a real tree it arrived the last weekend in November, so it was half-dead by the time Christmas came around. But that has now become a treasured part of our family Christmas – guessing how early the tree will arrive and taking bets on whether or not it will go the distance!
It took me a long time living in Hong Kong and fighting it to realise the true meaning of “home is where the heart is.” I think after so many years here now, I’ve learned that the spirit of Christmas lives here too.