Monday, 21 December 2015

Looking For The Christmas Spirit

Looking For The Christmas Spirit


This is by far the hardest Christmas for me.  It is my first Christmas without Dad. 


Every year, the extended family would gather at my home on Christmas Eve where I would fill it with a beautiful tree, buntings, lights, candles, and all manner of Christmas decoration that was extensive enough to start my own trim shop.  Conversations peppered with laughter would surround the dinner table laid out with a huge spread of roast Turkey, a baked ham, rosemary-roasted baby potatoes, brussel sprouts, parsnips and home-made cranberry sauce lovingly cooked by David and our housekeeper, Evelyn.


This year, I could not even bring myself to go tree-hunting with the family, like I usually would.  The decorations at the trim shops out there were more confusing than mesmerizing.  I could not step into the grocery store to shop for ingredients for our Christmas Eve dinner. I forgot to make time to take my Mum Christmas shopping like I did every year.   I just could not feel the Christmas spirit in me.


Managing The Grief



I know this was part of the grieving process but I did not think Christmas would ever be the same again.  Christmas was about family.  How was this season about family when an important member of my family had been cruelly plucked from my life?


I recognized that the grieving process did take time and it would never get easier.  At this time of the year, it actually got even worse.  However, I tried to be gentle to myself and gave myself permission to take some time out of the preparations for the Christmas Eve dinner.  I allowed David, Evelyn and Mom to take over the kitchen this Christmas Eve.  I still would not allow a tree in the house.  If Dad could not be here to gawk happily at my Christmas tree like he had done so every year, then, why have a tree right?


The Christmas Spirit Came Looking For Me


In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I knew my emotions would be diving through a tsunami, threatening to drown me under my efforts to strike a balance between a turbulent wave of grief and my façade of focused determination as I threw myself into long work days.  However Christmas kept catching up with me.


Our company sponsored the Christmas Wonderland at Gardens by the Bay.  That meant I could not avoid the endless rounds of Christmas parties organized at the Spiegeltent, the countless selfies and wefies taken with the luminaire lights and festive displays plastered across social media and worst of all, I had to think of fun contests and campaigns to promote the Christmas Wonderland. As much as I thought that I had to do it all with emotional detachment, the truth was that, I rather enjoyed working with my team on the project. It made my heart swell with pride when I watched them working very hard on the sponsorship activation plans, yet genuinely enjoying every minute of it.  I did not realize this till I looked back at the photos we took of ourselves riding the carousel, and clowning about around the gardens as a team.  I really did enjoy these moments with them. 


Christmas was not very far from me after all.


I looked forward to weekends, when David was busy with his sports photography assignments.  This provided me with some “Me-time” to wallow in grief at some coffee shop somewhere where I could salve the pain with a huge slice of cake.  However, I would come across a pop-up store or a festive push-cart nearby selling a shiny bracelet, or a pretty trinket that immediately called out one of my staff’s name.  So that was how I did my Christmas shopping for the girls at work. 


Christmas was not very far from me after all.


In the midst of this depression, Joel embarked on his new life in the army.  The start of his 2-year stint at national service meant that I could only see him on certain weekends.  I thought that was a good opportunity to avoid the pesky questions from Joel about my state of mind and I really did not want to pull him down with my depression particularly when he was embracing army life with such enthusiasm.  However, as fate would have it, he came home most weekends, and accompanied me to Church every Sunday morning, where we would have breakfast at the Church canteen after mass.  The boy brought me sunshine  as he joked about his experiences with his platoon mates, the friends he made, the drills, the exercises and the food at the army camp. He admitted to me that through it all, the hardest thing for him was to balance his time between his army mates, his girlfriend and I.  I was grateful for time spent with him, and even more grateful for the light he had brought back to me when I was feeling down.


Christmas was not very far from me after all.


Yesterday, I had the opportunity to take Mum shopping finally as Joel had to get back to camp and David had to trawl across the grocery stores for ingredients he had not yet bought to prepare for the Christmas Eve dinner. Mum and I traipsed down the entire Orchard Road zipping in and out of malls, looking for colorful clothes that were worthy of the season, trying them on at fitting rooms fit for 2 people so that we could both laugh out loud  at each other when we happened to try on a dress or blouse that looked like we had just put on a tea cozy or a granny’s table cloth.  We ended our day by having dinner with my brother Jerome and my sister-in-law Ely.  As I glanced around the dinner table at the family, I truly felt blessed.  I was surrounded by the people who mattered most. I spent the day with the people I loved and who meant the world to me.


Christmas was not very far from me after all.


Late last night, I went to the refrigerator to get myself a drink when I saw that it was stocked from top to bottom with brussel sprouts, parnips, cranberries, carrots, fresh herbs,  jars of different kinds of sauces, marinades and tapenades, Prosecco, and wine.  The freezer had a large bird waiting to be the main attraction at Christmas Eve.  The kitchen counter top was like a merchandising display corner of a Crate and Barrel store. Carving knives, roasting trays, roasting racks, pie dishes were lined up neatly in a row.  I realized I had nothing to worry about because I spent weeks fretting about whether or not I should call in the caterers.  I had already pre-arranged plans at the gym with my personal trainer followed by a cup of tea with some friends down town on Christmas Eve.  I was planning to just show up at my own Christmas Eve dinner party.  I felt very proud that David and Evelyn had stepped up to take care of the Christmas Eve dinner.  I knew I could count on them to whip up the perfect Christmas Eve dinner.  Actually, there was nothing new to this.  Every year, they did it anyway.  I was always pretty useless in the kitchen. I was better at opening wine bottles and popping the champagne cork.  Each year, as they both prepared for the annual Christmas Eve dinner, I was like the “a spare foreskin at a Bar Mitzvah” as David would describe me.  So, I was really glad that I had a good reason to stay out of the kitchen and left them to be in charge of all that Christmas fare.


Christmas was not very far from me after all.



Celebrating Christmas With Dad Anyway


This morning, it suddenly dawned on me that the only reason Dad loved coming to my Christmas Eve dinner party every year, gawked at my pretty Christmas tree, and drank way too much red wine, was because he enjoyed being surrounded by family.  Family meant the world to Dad, the way it did to me.  This Christmas spirit, was not about presents, tree, turkey and champagne.  It was about family. 


I knew that if the family is with me, whether at my Christmas Eve dinner party, or at a scrumptious Laksa lunch cooked by Mum on the occasional Sunday or at the malls along Orchard Road, or at the Christmas Wonderland at Gardens By the Bay, my Dad would be with us.


The Christmas Spirit is the Spirit of the Family, an unbreakable bond, and a circle of love.


About The Writer

The writer of this blog post is a Marketing and PR professional for over 20 years.  Due to her love for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), she is also a freelance sports writer on the side, contributing MMA-related articles to several sports media.  She works in partnership with her husband, David Ash, who is an avid sports photographer from  She is passionate about Boxing and nurtures a dream to fight competitively one day when her coach stops making fun of her.  She is also a psychic intuitive by birth and runs a consultancy that does tarot and numerology readings under her brand, Sun Goddess Tarot.  This blog is affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" as she is married to one, although she has not yet explained to THE Ang Mo that when translated, he has been labeled  “the bloke with ginger hair”.  



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