Well, Christmas Day in Hong Kong is all but over! We’ve left the family behind at the end of the day, to come back to a lovely bijou apartment in the center of WanChai- big thanks to little sister’s friends for giving us use of their beautiful place. All that’s left, is to reflect on just how different our first Christmas out of the UK has been.
Up at 6.30 and round for opening presents by 7am, it was a relatively late start for a Christmas Day. Text messages kept us up to speed with how the delaying tactics were working on a two and a half year old. But we needed to hurry because she was close to seeing the pile of toys left by Santa Clause himself, and once that happened there would be no stopping the unwrapping. Especially as her favourite phrase at the moment seems to be, “For me?”
Watching the Minxa (little sister’s nickname) dish out and control the flow of presents was just like being back at home and having a family Christmas from years ago- she was and is, always the one in control! The teenage daughter got fully engaged in opening presents with her very much younger niece and nephew, and we remembered back to when she was young enough to believe in Santa with the same fervour. All too soon, it reached a point where western excesses became too much and some presents had to be hidden outside for later.
After the unwrapping of presents, we took a walk to a swanky Japanese coffee house and drank our iced cappuccinos on a rooftop garden (while the turkey was cooking.) Minxa is sold on the idea that the workers here love their job with every fibre of their being and every coffee is made with passion, commitment, and care. The cynic in me laughs at that notion, although the coffee was very nice. Is that because of the passion and care that it’s made with – or the cream?
Then back to the apartment, and food, food, and more food, and like families everywhere we ate far too much! The day ended with a never ending game of Trivial Pursuits (we gave up after 2 hours of playing and each team of two with only 2 cheeses- perhaps stick with Catan and other strategy games, as general knowledge tonight didn’t seem to be our forte.)
The time difference meant that when FaceTiming family back in the UK, we were talking about the later end of the day, while they had just finished lunch. You are all very much missed, especially A and B, as are Smokey and Joe, and old school friends.
Our Christmas Day 6000 miles away has been pretty similar to being back at home (minus the rooftop coffees!) And we loved every second of it.
The run up to Christmas has been very different. In China itself, they give a gentle nod to western tradition and most shopping malls had an isolated display of trees and Christmas related artefacts that no-one seemed to care much for. Though they all looked pretty spectacular, in China they seemed relatively meaningless. But then why should they holding meaning in a country whose people are not predominantly Christian? This half-hearted attempt at Christmas was supplemented by Christmas muzak being piped into the various shops in the various malls. It was almost like every shop had exactly the same Christmas Muzak mix tape on repeat, repeat, repeat.
Crossing the border to Hong Kong on the pre Christmas weekend we saw a marked shift in the way Christmas was marketed. Shopping malls and streets everywhere where festooned with the most amazing decorations, and the angels flying above Lee Tung Avenue were simply beautiful, as were the ballerinas gracefully dancing beneath. Fake snow being pumped down the Avenue was also pretty spectacular, and it was an added bonus that it wasn’t accompanied by biting winds and sub-zero temperatures. The crowds were immense, as everybody seemed to be squeezed into this tiny space in the city.
Traversing the Avenue with the extended family was like undertaking an epic journey. Dodging and weaving in amongst everybody with a pushchair and an overtired toddler was perhaps not the best use of time on Christmas Eve – but the atmosphere was joyful, the carols being sung were uplifting and for the first time this year I felt that the Christmas spirit really was all around. Also, for the fist time in years I found myself doing the majority of my shopping on Christmas Eve (something I’ve never done before – most presents are bought and wrapped by the end of November – at the latest.) That everywhere was still open until 10pm was most definitely an added Christmas bonus. A further bonus – the weather! Ok – not dressed for the beach, but no need for coats.
Another thing I found myself doing on the eve of Christmas was travelling at speed up the great glass elevator and looking out over all of Wan Chai – forgive the very amateur camera skills, I didn’t think I was moving the phone around that much until I watched the footage. Still worth having a look though (this particular elevator going up 56 floors of the Hopewell Center is a real hidden gem in the heart of Hong Kong.)
My husband was the one to make the suggestion, but when it came to stepping through the door into the glass enclosure, he stepped back and waited along with our daughter. A real shame as I’d love to share the view with my two favourite people. Damn that bloody vertigo!
A relaxing visit to one of the islands tomorrow, before moving on the visit friends in the New Territories, then back home to China for the new year. To all out there, we hope you’ve had a lovely Christmas, and have a fabulous new year.x