Spruce cones, posadas, ribbe – what’s the one thing you can’t live without this Christmas?
Three families with children that attend the Overseas Family School share their plans and traditions for the Christmas holiday.
The Ottesen family
Sune, Heidi, Gustav (14), Kirse (11) and Vigga (9)
Years in Singapore: 2
“We normally celebrate Christmas with family in our hometown in Denmark. The kids make decorations with candle lights, spruce cones, glass globes and bows. We also make red-and-white Christmas hearts to put around the house. We light candles every day during December and count down the days until Christmas. Most Danish kids have an advent calendar and get small gifts or sweets throughout the month. On Christmas Eve, we go to church and spend the evening dancing around the tree, eating goodies and singing carols and hymns.
Danish is our mother tongue, and the kids love going to Denmark to speak to everyone. In fact, when we first arrived, our kids didn’t understand or speak any English at all. All three kids joined summer camp at OFS, which helped them make friends, learn English and settle into their new school.
This Christmas, we’re staying in Singapore for the first time, and family from Denmark are coming to visit us. We’ll keep many traditions; we will still go to church, dance around the tree – Kirse’s favourite part – and have a nice family dinner, though we’ll likely trade traditional roasted duck and potatoes for barbecue this year. Gustav loves the Danish snow, but he’s excited to swim during Christmas – a first for us. We will still eat goodies and have a cosy day of fun and games while we listen to Christmas music and exchange presents, including Vigga’s homemade presents she loves to make for the family. Then we’re off to Bali to celebrate the New Year on the beach.”
The Gonzalez Gongora family
Israel, Veronica, Regina (7) and Israel (3)
Years in Singapore: 4
“Christmas is our favourite time of year. Every year we return to Mexico to visit family and friends. Staying at our house there brings back so many memories – we love it.
With Mexico’s strong Catholic background, there are so many traditions around Christmas. The most important celebration is Christmas Eve, where families get together to exchange gifts around the tree. But prior to this, we have nine posadas, or days of celebration. A posada is a family gathering that celebrates the birth of Jesus. Families decorate their houses with lights, a Christmas tree, a Christmas crib (or nativity scene) and, of course, a guiding star at the top of the tree.
A very important element of a traditional posada is pedir posada, which means “asking for shelter”. Families split into two groups; one group goes inside the house, and the other stays outside. The group outside represents the pilgrimage of Virgin Mary and Joseph, and they carry candles and lights and ask to come into the home. Everyone takes turns singing until the pilgrims are welcomed inside to share food, love and shelter. It’s a moment of great celebration with songs and dancing.
Two other posada elements that cannot be missed are the ponche and the piñata. Ponche is a traditional hot beverage made with seasonal fruits and tamarind – delicious! A piñata is a container made of papier-mâché, carton paper or pottery that’s filled with small toys, candy, or both. It’s broken open by the children as part of the celebration. A traditional piñata is shaped like a star with seven peaks to symbolise the seven capital sins. Breaking the piñata represents the fight against evil, and the falling candies commemorate the blessings that come from defeating evil.
During a good Christmas break, you can be invited to five to seven posadas in a row with invitations coming from relatives, neighbours and friends. If you’re ever invited to a Mexican posada, remember that it’s a fun and colourful celebration. You must go!”
The Stenstad family
Jorunn, Espen Yttri, Ida-Marie (13), Hanna (9)
Years in Singapore: 1.5
We’ll be in Norway for Christmas. First, we’re going to Oslo where we’re from, and then we’re going to our cabin in Numedal in the mountains. We are really looking forward to skiing and seeing the snow again. Christmas in Norway is usually quite cold with lots of snow.
We have many traditions around Christmas. On the 23rd of December, we decorate the Christmas tree and place gifts under the tree. On Christmas Eve, we open the presents, and the whole family spends time together. On Christmas Day, we gather again with family and have lunch. Later that afternoon, we go to church and then enjoy Christmas dinner together. We eat traditional ribbe, which is very similar to pork belly in Singapore. We also have dessert and cakes.
The kids are most looking forward to meeting and spending time with family and friends, eating Norwegian food, making snowmen and snow castles, skiing and seeing our cat again.
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