I grew up in Australia with a Japanese mother and Australian father and we lived for eight years in Beijing, China – so I didn’t really have the typical, “traditional” Christmas. Most often we were traveling for the holidays, escaping the bitter cold of northern China for the warm waters of Thailand, Indonesia or Malaysia. My memories of Christmas meals are of things like juicy sweet mangoes, cold, boiled prawns served on ice, pavlovas and barbecues, or satays sticks with peanut sauce, rice and incredible fruit buffets.
Christmas for us wasn’t a religious holiday, but simply a special time to be together with my parents and siblings. No matter where we were – in a tropical resort on a beach, in a hotel room, at home in snowy Beijing or an Australian summer – the magic of Christmas was always felt. That feeling of excitement and surprise of discovering what presents Santa would bring, the joy of being together, and it is still what I try to pass on to my young children now, every year.
My best childhood memories of Christmas are all about the Christmas tree and waking up in the morning to discover presents under it. Once we decorated a pot plant in a hotel room with tinsel to be our Christmas tree. There always had to be a tree so that Santa could find us and put presents under it. My mother would make a special breakfast and still in our pyjamas, we would open the presents under the tree, taking turns, one by one. Even now, as adults, if we are spending Christmas at my parents’ home, the tradition is the same – coffee and breakfast while we open presents together in our pyjamas, first thing in the morning before we cook and enjoy a nice lunch together. It is my favourite Christmas ritual, and one I like to recreate exactly with my own children.