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Where the heart is

Originally published at breadcrumbss. Please leave any comments there.

Here’s a piece on Christmas I did for work:

I have lived in Singapore for 17 years but have only stayed in town for Christmas twice – I had to work.

Christmas is a big thing for my family. That’s why every year, I would make the four to five-hour drive back to my grandmother’s place in Malaysia for our annual gathering. When my husband and I started dating, he came along. This year – the first that we will be celebrating with our son – will be no different. We will make the trip.

For as long as I can remember, a big part of Christmas has always been about the travelling. When I was living in Malaysia, it meant driving across to the next state. The cheery carols on the car stereo; playing with my brother (shooting with imaginary pistols out the rear window at “enemy” cars and darting behind our back seat fort); fighting with my brother (shooting at each other); my mother nagging at us; catching up with my dad whom I saw only twice a year when I was growing up; and of course, the ice cream we always got when we stopped for a break.

Travelling home has always been a feature in many holiday celebrations worldwide. In the US, Americans travel miles – some across the country – to spend Thanksgiving in late November with family. In China, during the Chinese New Year season, billions of journeys are made in what has been called the largest annual human migration. In the Muslim world, before Hari Raya Haji is celebrated, some three million believers head to Mecca in Saudi Arabia for the Haj, a magnificent yearly religious pilgrimage.

In Singapore, while many stay in town to celebrate Christmas with family and friends, and many like me travel to be with family, there are many others who take the chance to travel for leisure. I am tempted each year to take some time off for myself during this season. Wouldn’t it be glamorous to ring in Christmas at the Eiffel Tower in Paris? Or wouldn’t it be fun skiing or snowboarding in Japan?

But always, I realise these fleeting thoughts are for another time. Christmas is a time to be with family. My Christmas memories may be tropical, my celebratory dinner may be rendang instead of the traditional turkey or roast, and my tree may be a fake plastic one, but it sure feels like it’s the best Christmas ever, every December 25 at Grandma’s.

And this year, one little nine-month-old boy will be making the journey with us, and starting his own Christmas rituals. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Merry Christmas everyone!