‘Tis the season to eat, drink and be merry – perhaps also for reminiscing. Responding to our iremember Christmas initiative, our Memory Corps volunteer Lily Bok shares with the Singapore Memory Project on Christmas time in Singapore in the 1950s.
Christmas was considered a western festival, associated with the British or ‘angmoh’ (red hair in Hokkien) in the 50s and 60s. Most of us, Asians did not know of the significance of the celebration which is the birth of Jesus. During my childhood days, Christmas was a quiet affair. Today we know Christmas is approaching when decorations are put up in the shopping malls and at Orchard Road. Most families back then celebrated Chinese New year, the Dumpling Festival and the Lantern festival. The approach of these festivals was more obvious than Christmas.
We lived near Raffles hotel and Christmas was celebrated every year by the ‘angmoh’. From the rooftop of our shop house we could see the compound and the crowds. We could also hear the music and the cheering on Christmas eve. On Christmas Day, my sister and I would make our way to the side road where a large pile of used party packs was discarded. We happily collected some beautiful hats. At times, we found some crackers with pop-up pictures on them and some interesting toys inside. Party packs were not easily available and were expensive in those days.
The first time my siblings and I attended a Christmas party was at a relative’s house. (shown in the photograph above.) I think it was taken in 1961. It was my eldest brother who brought us there. Everyone was dressed up for the occasion. The young ones especially enjoyed the singing and games such as ‘musical chairs’. They enjoyed wearing the hats and masks. Both young and old had fun at this Christmas get together. There was no turkey or log cake but delicious home cooked food. We appreciate those involved in organizing this function, bringing joy to the young ones. I find the photograph unique because the dressing is so formal. Today it is not likely that you find people in such attire at a house party cum gathering.
Do you have your own Christmas stories to share? Share your memories of Christmas with us and five lucky winners will stand to win shopping vouchers worth $100 each. Closing date is 5 January 2013. You can also view all entries here.
Singapore Memory Project