It’s this time of the year again, when the Christmas trees are up, tinsel is everywhere, and Christmas songs are played in almost every shop you walk past. The time of the year when you can’t help feeling anything but merry.
I’ve always had a fondness for Christmas, no matter what happened. Even in the worst years of my life, when December came, things seemed to be a bit more bearable, thanks to Christmas. There’s something about the festivities that never fails to put me in a cheery mood. Coming home from uni to a fridge full of Christmas meal, Christmas songs played on the stereo non-stop, and opening the presents at midnight (because, who can wait until morning?). Tis the season to be jolly, after all.
There are some memories of Christmas which stand out from the others. When I was 8, I found out that Santa Claus in our church was not a burly old man from the North Pole, but our beloved neighbor whom I dearly loved and considered as my own grandpa (we were so close that I even called him Opa). When I met this Santa (or my Opa), the first giveaway was the boots he was wearing, which I just saw the very previous day in his house, placed neatly at his terrace. The second giveaway was the undoubted evidence, his voice. I remember staring at him as the revelation hit me, and later at home, asking my mom in a trembling voice, ‘Santa isn’t real. It’s Opa, isn’t it?’ My mom only looked at me, and there was a dead silence before she finally said, ‘Don’t tell your sister,’ in the most stern voice I’d ever heard. That year, I was gutted to find that Christmas wasn’t as magical as I’d thought.
Every Christmas is unforgettable in its own way. Christmas 1998, I found out that Santa isn’t real. Christmas 2008, my family moved to Jakarta, the city that I loathe. After that, Christmas wasn’t as good as it’d been, albeit my unchanged affinity for my family’s Christmas tradition. In 2012, in a desperate attempt to reinvent the Christmas spirit, my sister and I booked last-minute tickets to Singapore for my family. We spent Christmas that year strolling on Orchard Road, going to Universal Studio, and enjoying the city lights at Marina Bay Sands. It wasn’t usual, but that’s what made it unforgettable. Last year, I celebrated Christmas without my family for the first time. My father called me on Christmas day, telling me to go online on Skype. We skyped for a bit before I went to my friend’s flat to clean up the mess from the night before, a Christmas Eve dinner that was stretched until 6 in the morning.
Despite those gut-wrenching memories, every year, I welcome Christmas with an excitement that matches a kid’s who enters a candy shop. Maybe it’s all those lights and decorations, or maybe it’s the time when having too much food and one too many glasses of mulled wine is acceptable, as shallow as it may sound. And of course, my favorite part, buying Christmas presents for my loved ones (guilt-free shopping!) and seeing the look on their faces when they open their presents. One of the best feelings in the world.
A week ago, I went to Hyde Park Winter Wonderland. This, at least, comforted my long time wish to go to Germany around Christmas and see the Weinachtsmarkt. It was still very much like last year, beautiful and merry.
And of course, the little glows made it all the more dazzling.
And all those delicacies? Let me just say that the guilty pleasure was enough to make me want to recite ‘Forgive me, God, for I have sinned.’
I know I made the right decision by staying here until after Christmas.