I've been away from home during Christmas before, but never this far. This year's Christmas was celebrated with Katherine's family in Singapore. Here are my observations.
Unlike in the United States, where 76% claim adherence to Christianity, Christmas in a country where only 18% of its residents are Christian is understandably a different experience.
Since most Singaporeans are buddhists, the observed holiday is mostly secular. However, there are traditional midnight masses and Christmas Day services for christians wishing to attend.
In general, the materialism of Christmas is not hyper-inflated in Singapore. Shopping malls have modest decorations of garland and some lights. Most malls do not have a humungous Christmas tree. Also absent is the ubiquitous Christmas music prevalent in the States. The main shopping district, Orchard Road is festively decorated with Christmas lights. But also curious to note was the Chinese New Year (Horse, Jan 31) decorations a few blocks away in the heart of China town.
Gift exchanging is not common. If there is an exchange of gifts, it's focused on the children. Even then, it's a modest affair.
The Christmas Eve dinner celebrated at my brother-in-law's household had a turkey and stuffing, but it also had pineapple fried rice, and we contributed a balsamic Waldorf salad. Interestingly, because most Singaporeans do not have ovens -- too much heat in the kitchen -- the turkey was catered in. I was actually quite surprised, and a bit delighted, to have a traditional turkey dinner in Asia. From what I gathered, it's not too uncommon to have turkey for Christmas here. The bird was quite tasty, and also to my delight, not dry.
Christmas Day is an official holiday in Singapore. Government, banks, and most non-retail businesses are closed. Retail, however is a different thing. In fact, contrary to the States, on Christmas Day, malls are open at normal time and are bustling with shoppers. Entertainment venues like movie theaters and amusement parks are also packed. Singaporeans are hard working folks. Holidays are a treat to get out and enjoy it.
Katherine and I spent the afternoon with our niece at a water themed amusement park.
Christmas decorations on Orchard Road
Santa in a carriage pulled by horses. Rudolf was drowning his red nose in a Singapore Sling down the road at the famous Raffles hotel.
China town is ready for the year of the horse (Jan 31). This lead horse was pretty ginormous; about 50 other horses nearly as big galloped behind
A suspended stream of coins symbolizing good luck and fortune followed the horses