A Christmas rich in meaning

Image credit: iStock

Mummy Musings is a fortnightly column where Elisabeth Lee navigates the ups and downs of bringing up her daughter.

Christmas is tricky on the road. We have no tree, no decorations, no neighbours dropping by for a spot of impromptu carolling. What we do have is endless canned Christmas music in the malls, and lots of shiny, pretty lights. Little A is pretty confused. Are we having Christmas this year, mummy? Where is Santa? Will he be in Thailand? (That’s where we will be at Christmastime.)

I admit that we had not given the matter much thought when we planned our Christmas trip back to Asia. As non-religious adults who aren’t much into buying or consuming stuff, Christmas really is just a time for celebrating with friends and family – eating and drinking well, hanging out, reconnecting.

With little A, we’ve largely stuck to the same sort of idea – we’ve insisted on fewer gifts (a request that her grandparents have found impossible to comply with), we don’t really do a Christmas photoshoot or write letters to Santa or any of that jazz.

We hadn’t really considered the issue of Christmas away from home, so I was a little surprised and unprepared for A’s continued insistence on solving the problem of Santa. Somehow, the Christmas marketing had gotten through to her.

So far, we’ve stuck to our guns, insisting that Christmas is for connecting (and not for gifts), that Santa is just a story. Yes, it’s nice to receive presents but it’s even nicer to give – so let’s think about how we can give to our nearest and dearest, and more importantly, how we can give to those who are truly in need.

It’s provoked some deep thinking in our house – how do we celebrate the spirit of Christmas when we’re on the road? This is what we have or will be doing:

Giving back by volunteering or donating as a family
There’s in Singapore if you’re looking for something close to home. For us, we’re looking at perhaps contributing to a charity that is helping the Balinese who are affected by the eruption of Mount Agung (we had originally planned to travel there). This is a great round up of how to help the Balinese – we are leaning towards giving to the East Bali Poverty Project since that will go to those whose lives are most disrupted by the ongoing eruption.

Showing our love for our friends and family
For A, this means hand-drawn cards or pictures. She’s learning to write now, so she can even pen a simple note. I don’t know about you, but for me, something hand-made means so much more than something bought in a store. For us as parents, this means scheduling lots of meals or activities with our nearest and dearest while we are here in Singapore, and taking lots of pictures so we can cherish the memories.

Showing our love for each other as a family
For us, I think this means splurging on a big experience that we can all enjoy together, and maybe we will do it on Christmas Day itself to make up for the lack of presents under the missing tree. I’m leaning towards a sunset cruise, but little A has other ideas.

How about you? What will make this festive period special for your family? What does the holiday season mean to you?


Elisabeth Lee is proof that it is never too late to consider a second, third or even fourth career, having come to both motherhood and writing late in life. She occasionally freelances and can be reached at

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