Grounded For Christmas
We're not going home for Christmas this year. We're staying at home instead. You see what I did there? We're grounded this year. That is, we're unable / unwilling to fly the seven thousand or so miles to reunite us with extended family for the festivities. Instead we'll be here in Singapore, enjoying our first tropical Christmas with good friends. Poolside cocktails and all. So, in a big way, we ARE at home for Christmas. It hasn't been the easiest decision to come to, but ultimately it's the right one. And the more I think about it, the more it makes sense... Obviously we'll save a ton of cash. An actual ton if we paid in loose change, maybe. And since we have a trip back to Europe planned for next summer, including two weddings, any dollar saved now is a bonus. Plus there's the small matter of packing logistics which at Christmas, with a four and five year old, frankly are just a nightmare. How many suitcases does Father Christmas need? Hint: at least one with a lock, packed whilst the kids are asleep, and which gets whisked away once we arrive at my parents.
When we lived near Birmingham we had the Christmas Day routine DOWN. Seriously, we aced it. We - as in the four of us - would wake up to stocking deliveries, have a morning of present opening and excitement. Then we'd have our first Christmas lunch early (at kiddie lunchtime), load the dishwasher, load the kiddies into the car and hit the M6 north. During the hour and half drive (Christmas Day driving = the dreeeeeeam) the kids would nap. By the time they woke up we'd have arrived at my parents, who by now would just be hitting the pudding course of their Christmas lunch. So we'd sneak in lunch part two (hollaaaaa) before all piling into the study to unwrap the pressies under the tree. The ratio of children to adults was also far more agreeable with this arrangement with two children to seven or nine adults.
Anyway, I mustn't dwell on the festive dream. This year we'll be motorway free, which is a very, very good thing. And airport free of course, which is about as good as it gets. Travel during the Christmas period is just stressful. Knowing our luck it'll be another of those freak winters again where we get a generous dumping of snow and the British travel network grinds to a sad stop very quickly. Like the Christmas of 2010 when everything and everyone became snowed in over the space of a few days and no one knew what to do. I can guarantee absolutely no risk of adverse weather conditions in Singapore. At worst it'll be too hot to sit comfortably round the pool. Shocking, I know.
Arguably the biggest sticking point with Christmas in Singapore is the lunch situation anyway. The options are limited, and none involve my Mum's pigs in blankets or stuffing. So you can see where this whole plan is going to fall apart can't you? Our oven isn't big enough to fit a turkey in, or any joint of meat plus trimmings (as in roast spuds, yorkies, aforementioned pigs in blankets and stuffing - or at least an attempt at -etc). So we're almost forced to take our lunch plans elsewhere. But then, realistically, will we want to have an overpriced hotel Christmas lunch with other people's noisy kids whooped up and running riot when our own two are bad enough? And will the kids sit through a lunch for a couple of hours knowing they have new toys ready and waiting at home? But is a barbecued Christmas lunch just one broken-tradition too many?
I'm also internally battling with the thought that this year we probably won't make it to a Christmas Carol service, or Midnight Mass, or Christmas morning family service. Can we do Christmas without actually DOING Christmas? Is that allowed? Can I get through one festive period without my favourite childhood memory? Will it feel like Christmas if we're not bellowing O Come All Ye Faithful just as the clock strikes midnight on Christmas Eve? It's my absolute favourite Christmas moment. I went to Church a lot as a kid, ok? But when it's cold and dark, and only minutes into Christmas Day and we can sing "born THIS happy morning" all the hassle of peeling potatoes, prepping veg, wrapping presents, and bickering family members disappears.
But money saving aside, there really ARE positives to creating our own new traditions this year. There's some excitement here already when we realised that we can Skype Oma and Grandpa (and the various assortment of Aunts and Uncles) to show them our Father Christmas swag, and the big fella won't have even made it their way yet. Correction: Finn realised, I'm slower on the uptake of timezones / Skype dates. Each year Grandpa has tried in vain to get Finn into the Santa Tracker to see the sleigh making it's way around the world on Christmas Eve. Each year that concept has been entirely meaningless. Until now that is. Not only can Grandpa call us when he's notified of a successful Singapore present drop, but we can track progress during our Christmas Day and call the UK back when we've seen Father Christmas has made it to the UK. That's pretty cool isn't it? I mean for the kids. OBVIOUSLY.
I know what you're thinking. I'm clutching at straws here.
It won't be easy. It wont be the same. And it's another first for us all. But like the rest of this experience living in Singapore, we'll find a way to make it memorable for all the right reasons. This is Finn's sixth Christmas and Clara's fifth. Their memories and traditions are only just forming. So long as they have stockings (they do) they'll be fine. It's a bonus for them that they'll get to spend the day with friends. In the sunshine. With relaxed, happy parents. Oh, and the Santa Tracker being refreshed....
Over the next few weeks I'll be writing more posts all about our first Christmas overseas, including ideas on how to make one home feel less far away from the other. So keep your eyes peeled, check back, or even better SUBSCRIBE to The Expat Mama to have each blog post handily delivered right to your inbox!