Another Kind of Christmas
Welcome to Christmas, as we know it, in Asia
Swarthy Santas sailing in across a turquoise lagoon, scantily-clad Santarinas singing Christmas songs (and ringing in the cash tills) in shopping malls and hotel lobbies, giant snowflakes and baubles illuminating boulevards in the tropical darkness… welcome to Christmas, as we know it, in Asia.
From personal experience I’d say there are broadly two kinds of Christmases in Asia. First, you have the modern “commercial Christmas” – as in the impressions above. Depending on where you are – in our case Singapore, Malaysia or the Maldives, hotels and resorts draw in the crowds with a festive atmosphere of Christmas songs, gigantic Christmas trees decorated luxuriously and abundant buffets, including turkey and pudding. Christmas tends to be celebrated outside the home, as opposed to the family nature of Christmas in Europe as a whole.
Then there’s what I call the “post-colonial Christmas”, which is closer to the European or British model. For example in the Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) of my childhood, the Catholic community held Midnight Mass, the rest had Carol services, Christmas lunch was turkey with all the trimmings and their Christmas cakes are amongst the richest I have ever tasted. These traditions endure today in many Asian homes, despite the increasing allure of the “hotel” route.
Asian celebrations lack that picture postcard fireside intimacy we’ve relished in Stockholm, Edinburgh and even beachside Barcelona. Yet they certainly make up for this in opulence and general cheer – its Christmas after all!