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An Expat's Guide to Having a Festive Christmas In Singapore

Posted on Dec 17, 2012 by Sergio Ulloa ()

One of the toughest parts of the year for any Christian living abroad is most certainly Christmas. Being in an unfamiliar place and away from family and friends can lead to a blue Christmas. Luckily for expatriates in Singapore, there are a variety of ways to celebrate this yuletide season, both at home and out on the town. Below is a list of ideas on how to increase your Christmas cheer and spread it to those around you:

Get a Christmas tree and decorate with a Singaporean flair.
Believe it or not, some flower shops in Singapore sell real Christmas trees, which are usually imported from the United States. If you want to get the real pine aroma that Westerners associate with the holiday season, there's nothing like the real thing. For those that do not want the hassle associated with the cleanup and disposal of a real tree, however, an artificial tree will suffice. The fake option can also allow you to get a smaller tree if your flat cannot spare the floor space to accommodate a more substantial spruce.

After you have your tree, trim it with ornaments that reflect Singapore. Moons, stars and lions are a good start. You can also make ornaments out of dried citrus fruit slices in order to give your tree a tropical feel and smell. Just dry them in an oven or warming cabinet and decorate for a neat addition to your tree.

Get out and go caroling.
For those of us that don't perform for others regularly, singing Christmas songs in public can seem like an embarrassing proposition. Just remember that there is strength in numbers! There are many groups in Singapore that plan to go a wassailing in 2012. One of the premier caroling events this year will be Celebrate Christmas in Singapore's annual Mass Choir event. This year it will be held at ION2 from 7:00pm-9:00pm on December 23rd and 24th. Join what promises to be a large group of people to raise your voice, as well as your spirits.

Invite your local friends over for a holiday dinner.
Sure. There are plenty of restaurants that will be supplying Christmas meals and buffets to Singaporeans this year, but they will all be missing a secret ingredient that you can only find inside of a home-cooked meal: love. Invite your closest friends and co-workers to your place to start a fun and festive holiday tradition. The best way to get locals over will be to prepare food that will appeal to them, so try bacon wrapped scallops, seafood soup, prawn cocktails, satay chicken, fried carrot cake or fish curry. However, to keep them coming back for more, make sure they get to try your favorite Western cuisines. A well prepared turkey or goose can work wonders to bridge the gap between East and West. Don't forget the mashed potatoes with gravy, chestnut stuffing, cranberry sauce, Yorkshire pudding, roast parsnips and brussel sprouts. Get the best of both worlds to create a feast that everyone can enjoy!

Bake, bake, bake.
Western homes at holiday time are usually brimming with cookies, biscuits, cakes and the like. Let your co-workers know how things are done back home by distributing tins of treats around the office. You can start with tau sar piah, a traditional Singaporean pastry filled with red-bean paste, and then throw in some Christmas staples like chocolate chip cookies, sugar cookies in various holiday shapes, cream puffs, truffles, fudge or mince pies, and who doesn't enjoy biting the head off of a gingerbread man? Some delectable snacks will keep your whole team in good spirits, and you may find that a little sugar can go a long way.

Decorate your home inside and out.
If you are fortunate enough to have a house in Singapore, you can really stand out and let everybody know that you're no Scrooge by decorating your home with Christmas lights. If your neighbor has some lights up too, go a step further and put a light-up snowman or a giant inflatable snow globe on the lawn. Let the neighborhood know that your Christmas spirit is second to none!

For those that live in a flat, you can still put some lights around the window, but most of your decorating will have to be done indoors. A wreath on your front door and holiday themed door mat will let your visitors know that they are entering a Christmas zone. Inside, a nativity scene, Christmas stockings, poinsettias, red and green candles, a nutcracker, candy canes and garland will complete the holiday visuals. Keep some classic holiday tunes on in the background and put out some Christmas spice to make your place smell extra nice. Just don't forget to warn any local guests about the mistletoe!

Have a snowball fight.
Many of us miss snow days off from school when we would go outside and go sled riding with our friends. Another great memory from those days is of the epic snowball battles that were had. Of course, there is no snow in Singapore, but that doesn't mean that you can't pretend. There are a number of options to use as replacement ammunition in snow's stead. Water balloons, foam balls, or pieces of sponge cake will work. You could even have each combatant buy a bag of tube socks to use. The most entertaining part of your 'snowball' fight may be seeing the looks on local people's faces when they see you and your friends throwing socks at each other in the park. Do be careful, though, there won't be any snow to break your fall this time around.

Set up a secret Santa program.
Also known as 'jingles', secret Santa gifts are a fun way to celebrate Christmas with co-workers, club members or other groups you may be in. Each person in the group will be assigned another member of the group at random to buy a gift for. Normally there is a relatively low spending limit for the gift, $20 for example. Then the group gets together at a small Christmas party to exchange the gifts. The retain the anonymity of each 'Santa', people will not give gifts to each other directly. It is up to each Santa whether or not they decide to reveal their identity. The element of surprise can add some extra fun to your Christmas.

Have Santa Claus visit the kids.
Everyone with children knows that they truly are what makes the holiday season memorable. Why limit their fun to just 1 day? If you have a Christmas party with children present, make sure that Santa Claus stops by to pay a visit to them. The smile on your face when you see their eyes light up at the sight of him will only grow larger when you hear what they ask of him for Christmas gifts. Kids say the darnedest things!

Wear red and green.
No one around you will be able to forget what time of year it is when you don your finest Christmas duds. Color scheme is important. You can match red and green for a classic look. Silver and gold combinations remind people of angels singing choruses and the grander side of Christmas. A mix of blues can bring back memories of snow and ice. Complete the ensemble with accessories like candy cane earrings or a snowflake pendant. The only problem is that a scarf and your favorite Christmas sweater may not mix well with Singapore's climate.

Send tropical Christmas cards.
The grass is always greener on the other side. So while you're pining for snow and a warm fireplace, people in colder climates are tired of the chill and long for a tropical getaway. Let them know that they should be jealous of where you're at by taking a nice Christmas photo on a sunny beach. Find a day with some blue skies and a get a picture of yourself with a Santa hat on underneath of a palm tree. Let people back home know that you'll be having a white Christmas, only it will be sand on the ground instead of snow.

Go to church.
Let us not forget the reason for the season. The birth of Jesus Christ can be celebrated at churches throughout Singapore. The city is host to over 180 Catholic and Protestant churches of various denominations. Whether you go to a midnight mass or get up early for church on Christmas morning, it's important to remind ourselves of what it is that leads us to get together with friends, family and neighbors each year with a giving spirit. If you're not a Christian, feel free to drop in on a Christmas service and see what all the fuss is about. Christian churches are open and welcoming of guests.

With a little effort and a lot of spirit, its clear that Singapore can provide a merry Christmas to all. Regardless of how it is celebrated, there is one truth that will always remain constant. Whatever you do to celebrate the holiday, doing it with friends and family is what will make any activity worthwhile.

We here at Pacific Prime wish you a very merry Christmas season!



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