In a year devoid of large gatherings and parties, it’s all about intimate family time for Singapore’s social set this Christmas. We take a peek at how they’re celebrating the season.
(Photos: Cheryl Wee, Paige Parker, Shireena Shroff Manchharam)
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and although the ongoing pandemic means that lavish Christmas parties are not making a comeback just yet, these society doyennes are making the most of the season.
After all, this year has brought about some blessings, including the possibility of travel to reunite with our nearest and dearest. CNA Luxury"s society friends give us a glimpse into their festivities.
Astrie Sunindar-Ratner and family in Geneva, Switzerland. (Photo: Astrie Sunindar-Ratner)
Christmas with our family in Geneva this year will always be one to remember! Travelling this holiday season is not a decision that we as a family took lightly. My family’s health will always be my top priority but I realised that this trip was much needed for our mental wellbeing. Living in constant fear is not the way I want my children to live!
COVID-19 is a lot of horrible things but it has taught us that life is so incredibly precious and hope is what will get us through! We have to take chances, to live in the now and most of all not to take anything for granted. So we will treasure every minute we have together on this trip. We will hug those we have missed so tightly and we will create memories with our family and friends whom we haven’t seen for the past two years!
Cheryl Wee and family. (Photo: Cheryl Wee)
Christmas has always been and will always be a special time for our family. As a Catholic family, the celebration of advent leading up to Christmas is a joyous and meaningful one.
Every year, my dad would adorn the house with decorations and everyone at home would play a part in the festivities. This year, now that my two kids Marc and Emma are a little older, we decided to bring them to enjoy various Christmas-related activities.
Some of the things we’ve brought them to experience are the open-top Big Bus ride down Orchard Road to see the Christmas lights. We also went to Christmas Wonderland at Gardens by the Bay and took the carousel, soaking in the bustling Christmas atmosphere. And we’ll be heading to Universal Studios Singapore (USS) since it is running a Christmas-themed event right now. USS is not only a place the kids enjoy, but myself too! We always have family members join in these outings too, such as my parents or cousins.
The highlight of the Christmas season is Christmas Eve dinner at home with family. As we can’t have many people over this year, it will just be my immediate family members and in-laws, and the rest of my aunts, uncles and cousins would probably have a Zoom dinner with us. We usually attend Christmas Mass in the morning, but this year with the restrictions, it will have to be online too.
We love Christmas at home and even more so now with all the kids. There’s so much going on at home and outside during the lead up to Christmas. The mood is so festive and joyous – even playing Christmas songs daily at home makes it such a heartwarming and happy time.
This Christmas season has been truly special as I was able to reunite with family near and far. I had taken for granted that I could meet my loved ones whenever I wanted prior to the pandemic, and it was agonising to not see them for so long. When the Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTLs) opened, I dropped everything and made it my priority to spend as much time with them.
It has been two years since I saw my father. I travelled to the US with my daughter Aiyana and my father flew in from Sri Lanka. Together, we met my sister, aunts, uncles and many of my extended family members and we were able to celebrate Thanksgiving, belated birthdays as well as do simple activities from toasting marshmallows at the fire pit, playing pool to simply enjoying the autumn colours.
My daughter and I then met my husband and son in Italy. We spent two weeks there, where we drove from the Dolomites then on to Venice, Tuscany and Florence. We plan to spend Christmas Day with Kevin’s family in Singapore. We are moving to a new home early next year and in the interim, we are staying with my parents-in-law so it will be very meaningful to be spending Christmas under the same roof.
I’ve always loved Christmas; its spiritual significance, along with the focus on family. With VTL travel possible this year, my daughter Bee, who just finished Secondary 1, and I visited family and friends in the US. As we all struggle to “live” with COVID-19, our journey had particular meaning.
A long-time bucket-list of mine for Christmas is visiting North Carolina’s Biltmore Estate, America’s largest home, famous for its over 100 decorated Christmas trees, 10,000 ornaments, and 100,000 twinkling lights. Along with my parents, we explored the late 19th-century mansion built by George Vanderbilt. Then, we drove to my hometown of Rocky Mount, where my parents still live, and my daughter Hilton visited from Columbia University for a too-short weekend. The highlight: Creating gingerbread cookies! On the way home to Singapore, we stopped in Milan (Bee’s first visit) to uncover and appreciate the city’s history, churches, food and fashion.
Once home, I spent three days decorating our trees. On Christmas morning, my husband Jim, Bee, Hilton and I will wake early to find Santa’s gifts. We’ll open a few, pause for panettone, and give thanks for our blessings, knowing those who gather with us around the tree are far more important than what’s inside the presents. Our Christmas feast will be at Les Amis, among the world’s finest restaurants, to celebrate life.
I am forever grateful for the adventures I shared with Bee, the ability to visit my parents and having my daughters and husband with me for Christmas at home in Singapore. Counting my blessings every single day!
SHIREENA SHROFF MANCHHARAM
My husband Ashish, my two kids Lara, Arian and I made a trip to London. It has truly been magical to leave Singapore and immerse ourselves in the Christmas spirit here. We have been to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, went shopping down Bond Street, admiring the beautiful buildings all lit up with sparkling lights and decorations, exploring Christmas markets, enjoying shows and visiting the theatre – and the list goes on!
It has been such a wonderful mental break to finally relax and not worry constantly about restrictions and have this time to bond and connect with our children. We have caught up with friends and family whom we have not seen for two years and it feels so exciting to be going back into theatres, dining in restaurants and feeling the energy of people all around us.
For the family, the Christmas season always holds a special place in our hearts. As COVID-19 continues to sweep across the globe necessitating the requirement of safe distancing, it is the perfect time to huddle together as a family with deeper reflection on the true meaning of Christmas.
My husband Adrian and I plan to have our traditional homemade Christmas spread with our son, Bertrand, roasting the Christmas turkey, which is a family favourite. All the other children, Melissa, Alvin and Desiree will create other dishes such as desserts and drinks.
Christmas will be dull without carols so this year, we plan to entertain ourselves with song and dance at home and especially spend precious time with our 94-year old dad, Mark, who is residing with us. Instead of attending Midnight Mass, we will likely participate virtually.
Christmas is also a time of nostalgia and thanksgiving as we express our heartfelt thanks and appreciation to dear colleagues, friends and relatives either through text greetings, phone calls or gifts.Ultimately, the magic of Christmas is truly about faith and hope as it is about the sharing of love and kindness that carries us through times of crises. We would like to wish everyone a joyous Christmas filled with blessings of a loving family, peace and good health.