A Tropical Christmas

I’m currently burning Christmas tree scented candles in my room. (Singapore isn’t big on smoke alarms either.)

It might be May, but I feel it’s legitimate, given that this year was only the second I have ever been devoid of a real Christmas tree. The first was the time we left it so late on Christmas Eve to purchase one, that it became actual Christmas morning, and my dad, in a panic, chopped 7 feet off the top of a holly tree in the garden. That year we wildly overcompensated with ‘Christmas in a bottle’ scent, sprayed liberally throughout the house.

This year, in South East Asia, Christmas was a little different.

I’d never attended Christmas Eve mass, but feeling festive and in need of some carols, we sought one out. Atmosphere was a little lacking. The sermon focussed on grief and loss, and the air con was what many in Singapore would understatedly describe as ‘generous’.

At least it made for an authentic chill, was my boyfriend’s optimistic take on things, between involuntary shivers.

There were no carols throughout the first hour and a half, so we were relieved when the choir finally arose.

I made it halfway through the first before having to make an emergency dash to the Ladies. The ultra-festive noodles we’d had for lunch were deciding make an unwelcome reappearance.

At two points, others entered the bathroom, heard the sounds emanating from my cubicle, and thought better of it. By the time I reentered the main church hall, carols were over for another year.

The next morning started early. After wishing my sister a premature Merry Christmas on Skype, I headed to my boyfriend’s and we opened stockings. Dried mango and a couple of guavas replaced the traditional satsumas with a tropical twist.

After flinging fake snow from the 18th storey window, in the absence of anything more genuine, we set about preparing dinner.

The Christmas Eve supermarket dash had been a success; we’d found everything minus sprouts – not a huge blow- including a much anticipated, solitary parsnip. At 6 dollars -3 of your great British pounds- we’d decided on just the one.

I unwrapped the chicken, and found a smaller, bagged section inside. Confused, I ripped it apart, and felt something flop out. I jumped. The chicken jumped with me, landing unceremoniously in the sink. One beady eye gazed up in reproach.

2 things quickly became apparent to me: the first being that this chicken was still in need of a good beheading; the second that this was a job for A. Eventually the tough sinew was severed, and he obligingly posed for a photo alongside his conquest.  Having relinquished all responsibility of the newly-decapitated chicken, I left him to discover that the feet, too, remained attached.

On balance, we decided to leave them be. ‘For effect’, it was reasoned.

We adorned the bird, baconned to bacon perfection, with purple sweet potato and chunks of exorbitant parsnip, then adjourned for some present opening.

The rest of the day passed in more or less traditional fashion, tropical heat aside. 2 Christmas dinners and Skype sessions with our respective families later, I’d nearly got over the chicken’s head and the lack of carols. Clearly the lacking Christmas tree scent was to have a longer lasting impact.


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