Tag Archives: Christmas

‘Tis the Season

Celebrations in all cultures take place throughout the year, but we are particularly aware of that in December. My family joins about 8% of the US population in not celebrating Christmas, but we do have our own traditions over that holiday that are as stereotypical as one can imagine.

Like most of my friends growing up, we eat Asian takeout (Thai on Christmas Eve and Chinese on Christmas Day) and go to the movies. Sometimes we go bowling. We look forward to it and are excited about it. However, since Judaism follows a lunar calendar and our holidays move around it is also always exciting when Chanukah coincides with Christmas. Chanukah began on Christmas Eve this year, which is only the eighth time this has happen in the last century!

In my family, that meant a lot of traditions at once. Thai food, the new Star Wars movie, and opening the usual first night gifts of a holiday themed tissue box and a box of Chanukah candles. Unfortunately, I missed it. I leave tomorrow to spend my week of school break visiting friends who I haven’t seen in a while and I’m very much looking forward to it!

Our week off started yesterday (not a day too soon, considering the number of students and teachers out sick) and one of my best girls from Singapore who is visiting her family came into Manhattan for a day and a night. The weather yesterday was beautiful and sunny so we spent most of the day wandering around downtown and stopping for shakshuka, coffee, mulled wine, and Mexican food. I love the parts of Manhattan that don’t match the glitter that makes Manhattan a tourist destination.

And then there’s my ongoing obsession with street art like this one on the Lower East Side . . .

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. . . and these in Little Italy. . . .

Today is day two of school break and it has been equally delightful. As is any day that begins with bagels.

I passed by this church in the East Village today that reminded me what actually matters not only during the holidays, but on especially on the holidays:

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At the end of the day, we’re all just trying to make a living in the best ways that we can. My holiday wish for all is that it gets easier.

To the cashier at Trader Joe’s today who folded my receipt into a paper airplane and zoomed it into my shopping bag;
to the Nepalese woman I met this evening who told me about the devastation last year’s earthquakes wreaked on her family;
to the baristas who made my hot chocolate, asked about my day, and told me that holiday overtime pay doesn’t exist in New York City;
to people everywhere putting one foot in front of the other, day after day:
Happy holidays, from my home to yours.

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Adventure Friday

My friend Jamie and I have used the last few Friday evenings as a chance to explore Singapore. We usually start with a quick meal at the hawker center near her apartment and spend the next few hours wandering through a mall, a shopping district, a neighborhood, or simply running errands that we didn’t get to during the week.

This past Friday took us to Christmas Wonderland at Gardens by the Bay. While I don’t have many pictures, the several posted below hopefully give you a taste of the extravagance of this free (!!!!) and dreamlike Christmas land in the middle of the tropics.

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It’s interesting that the theme colors aren’t red and green. These are the same colors that Singapore uses to celebrate Deepavali. Maybe they recycle?
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If Aladdin had a Christmas palace, I think this would be it.
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Supertrees in the background!
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I love the outline of the palm treets
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One of the biggest draws to any evening at Gardens by the Bay is a song-and-light show called Garden Rhapsody in which the supertrees essentially put on a light show set to music. For purposes of Christmas Wonderland, the music was Christmas-themed!

I’ve been to Gardens by the Bay a few times now (you can read previous posts here and here) and I enjoy them more each time. In a city that is so industrialized and often seems like a carbon copy of itself, an oasis like this is both necessary and extraordinary.

Travel Guide: Republic of Singapore

Being in Singapore with Mitch this weekend was a blast. It was also rather useful because Mitch has been there for a grand total of 12 days, which practically made him a local. He knew where we should eat and drink, which MRT (Singapore’s metro) stations would lead us where, which parts of town I should see, and how to get there.

Everything I’d heard about Singapore turned out to be true. It’s almost uncomfortably clean, people queue for everything, it’s incredibly safe, there are trees, plants, and parks everywhere, and it could easily pass for a Western city. The population is very diverse and all signs are posted in four languages: English, Bahasa Malay, Mandarin, and Tamil.

I really love the juxtaposition of traditional and modern that one sees all over Singapore
I really love the juxtaposition of traditional and modern that one sees all over Singapore

I arrived in time for a late dinner and drinks Friday night at a Japanese craft beer bar in one of Singapore’s many outdoor food courts. This one had restaurants serving cuisines from all over the world; we saw French, Italian, Irish, Japanese, and American eateries under brightly colored awnings next to a park.

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A quest for brunch on Saturday morning led us to Mark’s, a restaurant specializing in chocolate. (Yes, you read that correctly.) Patrons ordering a simple cup of hot chocolate choose from a list of chocolate-producing regions from around the world. The chocolate in Mitch’s hot chocolate came from Cuba! The other item in which Mark’s specializes is waffles! We got a “plain” waffle with real maple syrup and a cheese waffle with salad, eggs, and oranges. Yummy!

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We spent a bit of Saturday morning wandering around Fort Canning Park on our way to the National Museum of Singapore. The park was lovely and had a really beautiful fountain that actually wasn’t on because the city is in a bit of a drought. Welcome to Southeast Asia.

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The National Museum’s permanent galleries are closed for renovations until September 2015 (depending on how all of this works out, we might still be in the area) but there was a really interesting exhibit on the history of Singapore that I believe was a smaller version of one of the permanent exhibits. I knew next to nothing about Singapore before spending several hours walking through the exhibit. For example, one of Singapore’s earliest kings in the 1200s was a relative of Alexander the Great! I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t know the Japanese were in control of Singapore during World War II and I didn’t know anything about Japanese wartime propaganda. Now I do and I’m glad we had the chance to learn!

Mitch introduced me to the gem of ABC juice. ABC stands for apple, beet, carrot and the juice is made out of those three ingredients blended with ice. One buys juices like that at stands like this:

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We spent some time exploring Chinatown on Saturday . . .

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And Little India on Sunday . . .

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The socioeconomic differences are pretty obvious. Chinatown is definitely more affluent and the bigger attraction, definitely for tourists and possible for locals just based on location. However, every third restaurant in Little India is a vegetarian restaurant, which was both shocking and amazing. (Why is is that there are Chinatowns and Little Indias all over the world? Why not Little China and Indiatown?)

We made our way down to Marina Bay on Saturday, as well.

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In addition to the financial district’s tall building and the boats on the water there was a display of Christmas trees right next to the palm trees that are actually natural to the region. It made me laugh.

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Christmas in July! But not . . .

Other Singaporean adventures took us to a British pub, Red Dot Microbrewery (the best beer I’ve had since leaving the US), the club Zouk for a guest DJ show, and a restaurant called Strictly Pancakes (I had pancakes stuffed with leeks and potatoes and topped with mushrooms and cream cheese).

We also came across this building:

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Google was only marginally helpful in telling me who David Elias is, but I’m quite curious as David and I share a name . . .

Moral of the story: Singapore is interesting, exciting, cultural, modern, traditional, and very liveable. I can’t wait to go back!