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Growing up, Christmas was always a big deal. It was High Mass, lots of presents, exchanging sweets with the neighbours, visiting people and finally a big lunch with our aunts, uncles and cousins. When I moved to Hong Kong this continued because we always went back home for Christmas, except for one year when V’s family came over and it was still much the same.

That changed when Benji was born. Christmas was the day I pulled myself together after a firm talking to from my mum. I can’t remember what we did exactly, except take photos, because Benji was just a month old then.

The next year, I was nearly due with Mimi. My helper was very keen on Benji going to church and so we went with her and then V, Benji and I came back and had biryani or something for lunch and that was it.

This year, was similar but we had two babies in tow. My helper offered to work today but I sensed she’d like us to go to church and so we did. At 8 am, no less. Even the priest commended those of us who were there for rousing ourselves so early. Clearly he is not a parent. I go to church sporadically enough to find it moving but unfortunately, the kids didn’t agree and the singing kept them entertained for about 20 minutes. First V and Benji exited, followed by Mimi and I, and we explored the churchyard till our helper E emerged.

We had pushed Mimi through her naptime and she had a meltdown on the way back and Benji followed suit. When we got back V said he’s decided against another baby!

While Mimi napped we had a series of Skype sessions with family. There is a big gathering of V’s family in Australia for a wedding and he would be joining them soon as the sole representative of our little family because I refused to fly there with the two kids and V realised that was sensible too. I think his aunt is a little miffed with me; I think people don’t realise just how much of a handful very young children can be and just because planes exist doesn’t make flying a breeze.

There was a big Christmas lunch going on at their place – reminding me of the craziness of weddings but also giving both V and I a pang for the kind of Christmases we were used to. When Mimi woke up, the kids opened the little presents I had got them. We had already given Benji a scooter yesterday as V wanted to see him enjoy it. I also got him a car (actually a colleague won it at the office Christmas party and gave it to me) and a couple of chocolate Santas (which I won from the office Christmas party). I got Mimi a hideous pink toy laptop because she is obsessed with our laptop and some rubber toy zoo animals.

The kids were excited with their gifts and I impressed upon them that they were from Santa. I had good intentions of wrapping them last night but typically, forgot paper so opted for gift bags instead, which worked quite well. V said it didn’t matter and Mimi wouldn’t even know but I want this to be a tradition, just like it was a tradition for me growing up. The gifts needn’t be spectacular – what I got wasn’t expensive – but the anticipation and seeing something under the tree (our tree this time was a paper card from friends as we really have no space to put one up) is something I cherish.

Our lunch was pizza, which though not exactly Christmas fare was enjoyed by all particularly as noone slaved over it. After a nap, we took a cab with V to the airport as he was leaving for Australia. We dropped him off without any fuss – Benji said “bye daddy” very sweetly and then headed up to the mall Elements above the airport express where there was a Christmas installation by Polish artist Agata Olek which Benji really enjoyed.

Miraculously, the queue to get a photo with Santa wasn’t that long and I decided to queue up. At the last minute, Benji saw Santa and started trying to run off but I had a brainwave at the last minute and said “Santa’ll give you candy” and that convinced him. Thankfully, Santa really did give him candy and we got a nice photo. Took a cab home where I managed to pronounce the name of my estate in Cantonese (what? It’s very complicated. Even my Chinese friends have trouble with it.) A short stint in the playroom and we came up where the kids spent a good half hour playing with each other and giggling.

Although this wasn’t the Christmas of tradition, I realised that kids really do fill in a lot of gaps. Them being there makes us do stuff like decorate the house, and also institute traditions of our own. But mainly, they fill the house with laughter and noise enough for a whole clan. So while a Christmas with lots of family and little ones would always be welcome, for now, this is one is pretty great.

Hope yours was merry and bright too!

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