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A multi-cultural Christmas: How three ‘mixed’ Lantau families celebrate the festive season

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Suveera Sharma sits down with three ‘mixed’ Lantau families to find out how they celebrate the silly season.

Festive fun can be had on the beach, just as easily as it can around a log fire. For some it’s all about the ham, for others it’s the turkey. And while some children listen out for Santa on December 24, others wait to have their stockings filled by Father Frost on January 1. Every family has its own way of doing Christmas.

Each of us brings a diverse range of traditions to the table on and around December 25, many of which hark right back to our own childhoods. So imagine how rich Christmas must be when it’s created by couples who come from different cultures and nationalities – imagine the kaleidoscope of traditions that their kids are inheriting.

Anglo-Indian celebration

Anu and David James met in Hyderabad India in 2002, where they were working for the same company. Despite some opposition from Anu’s parents, they were married in 2003. They’ve been living in DB since 2004.

“I did trips in and around Hyderabad, and during my stay there, I understood and completely immersed myself in the culture of the country. Our core values are very similar,” says UK-born David.

Not surprisingly, it’s a fusion Christmas in Anu and David’s house. The tree comes out and Amber, their seven-year-old daughter, puts the star on top. The dining table overflows with a mix of Indian and Western dishes. “Instead of a roast turkey, we do a whole roast tandoori chicken,” says Anu. “Palak paneer is Amber’s favourite dish.”

Regardless of the time of year, David explains that the family bonds over food and travel. “We are trying to raise Amber as a global citizen,” he says. “We take her to both temples and churches.”

Anglo-Chinese jamboree

Andrew and Nancy Spires have made Tung Chung their home for the past five years, now with their two girls Storm, 3 and Juno, 1. Nancy is from Hong Kong and was educated in England. She met UK-born Andrew (Around DB’s senior graphic designer) through mutual friends in London, England.

In this East-meets-West home, the family celebrates festivals from both cultures. “Halloween, Chinese New Year and Christmas are our favourites,” says Nancy.

So why is Christmas so special for her? “I have very fond memories of Christmas growing up,” she says. “I would go out with my parents to see the Christmas lights in Kowloon. It became a magical, yearly family tradition. Those bright lights and the loud music left an impression on me as a child.”

Nancy and Andrew agree that what’s important now is that they make Christmas special for their kids. “We try and recreate more and more of what we did in London,” Andrew says. “We have a Christmas Eve dinner and Nancy’s parents come over. The menu is a unique mix of Chinese and British.

“Back home we always had a real Christmas tree, however now given the size of Hong Kong flats, we make do with a fake one,” Andrew adds. “Every year, I take out Christmas decorations that my grandmother passed on to me to put up on the tree. They are beautiful and special.”

“Every year, we write down our goals for the year and put them in a jar and see if we have achieved them by the end of the year,” Nancy adds.

Australian-Italian fete

Lisa and Francesco Bechis met in the picturesque snow-covered town of Sauze d’Oulx in Italy, Francesco’s home country, while Lisa was travelling around Europe in 2010. A year later, they were married in Australia, Lisa’s home country. DB is now their home and has been for the past six years, alongside sons John, 4 and Elijah, 18 months.

“DB has been good in bringing us together, given that we come from countries that are so far apart,” says Lisa.

Recalling Christmas as a child, Lisa says, “It’s summer in Australia – 30°C, bright and sunny. Very often we spend it on the beach with seafood and salads on the menu. The entire family comes together, of course, to celebrate and add to the fun.”

In Italy, on the other hand, Francesco grew up enjoying a proverbial white Christmas. “It is winter in Italy, the temperature is -10°C,” he explains.

“We have a very traditional Italian dinner with antipasti, veal with tuna sauce, Bagna càuda (Italian fondue) and Agnolotti pasta (meat-stuffed pasta). We go to midnight mass and spend time with family.”

Here in DB, Christmas for the Bechis is a mix of both traditions. “We call friends over for lunch, and our table leans more towards Italian cuisine,” Lissa says.

No matter how we celebrate Christmas, or with whom, the infectious enthusiasm is the constant. The loud chatter of friends and family over champagne or mulled wine. Christmas carols everywhere and the energetically decorated malls. You cannot escape the magic… and actually why should you? Just revel in the festive spirit and go with the flow.


Photos by Baljit Gidwani – www.evoqueportraits.com

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