Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas on a Foreign Island, part 3

By Julian Abraham Chua, Diploma in Business Management Graduate

Ho Ho Ho! It’s Christmas time in Singapore. We may celebrate it by partying or spending time with family. But ever wondered how our exchange students spend their holidays and Christmas in Singapore? Let’s find out! In this last instalment, we interview Saara from Finland and Elena from Switzerland.

Full name: Saara Susanna Huhtiranta

Country/state/hometown: Imatra, Finland

Age: 20 years

University: Saimaa UAS

Course major: Tourism and Hospitality Management

How do you find Singapore and the people?

Singapore is an interesting place with its diverse races and cosmopolitan culture. It offers sights that I have not seen anywhere else. I love the people here, because they are so nice and helpful. Sometimes the excitement and energy that Singaporeans have is too much for me to handle, because in my country people are calmer and quieter. But this is just something I have to get used to and learn to enjoy.

List your top 3 most memorable experiences in Singapore so far.

Other exchange students and I have been to a few parties at Sentosa and other places. These have been memorable and great parties, which I may not experience in Finland. The first time I saw Marina Bay, I was impressed. I have never seen such high buildings anywhere so it was really amazing. I also really enjoyed performing on SBM Day for other SBM students and lecturers. It was fun and unforgettable because it was my first time doing a duet.

What do you like and find interesting about Singapore?

Well the nature here always surprises me. Singapore has animals I have not seen before, like geckos and different insects. The sunny mornings are one of the nicest things here, because it’s sunny all around the year! It was hard to get used to when my inner clock says it should be cold and snowy, because in Finland we have summer only 4 months in a year!

How do you celebrate Christmas back in your country?

On the Christmas eve morning, the family starts by having Christmas porridge, made with milk, sugar, and a certain type of rice (one scalded almond is hidden in the porridge and whoever finds it will have good luck!). It can be served with sugar, cinnamon, and butter.

Then our family listens to the declaration of Christmas peace on TV. The declaration takes place in one of the biggest towns of Finland. It is broadcasted live to everyone. We also have a tradition of watching the famous cartoon, the Snowman.


(I don’t know if this is famous in Singapore).

Then it gets dark at about 2 pm, and we’ll head to the cemetery to put candles on the grave stones of our beloved relatives who have passed away, to remember them at Christmas time.


After that we’ll head back home to have a good relaxation in the sauna. Every Finnish house has a sauna actually.

Then we have Christmas dinner at my home (this is my favourite part !), followed by the exchanging of gifts (or maybe this is my favourite, I can’t choose :D ), and then we would just enjoy the Christmas atmosphere together in the living room, singing Christmas songs or listening to a CD.

Who do you celebrate Christmas with?

I celebrate it with my immediate and extended family. Normally in the morning, we would have porridge with my extended family from my mum’s side, and in the evening we exchange gifts with relatives from my dad’s side.

What kind of food do you have during Christmas?

The main thing is the Christmas Ham which has been baking in the oven since the night before. It can be eaten plain, with mustard, or with dark bread. The rest of the dinner consists of boiled potatoes and pot roast as the main course. This is usually served with boiled carrots and peas, and salt and pepper.


There are also different casseroles; the must-haves are liver, carrot and cabbage casseroles. As a side dish, we have basic green salad, a salad of local ingredients, and the third one is red cabbage and orange. Our family’s special treat is a cheese tray that we like to put together with grapes and mandarin orange slices. We also have dark bread, made with rye, and salted salmon.

We also have tiny pies, savory ones, which are eaten with the egg-butter (made of boiled eggs and butter and salt). As a dessert we have plum kissel (a jellied juice) with whipped cream and we also have plum tarts. We also drink homemade berry juice, non-alcoholic beer, and hot wine after dinner.

What are the 5 most important things to do before Christmas?

To buy the ham (they run out from stores quickly), get presents for my dearest family, do Christmas cleaning, get a Christmas tree from the forest, and decorate the tree before Christmas eve.

What is your ideal Christmas experience?

The whole experience as I have described :) and preferably that my family wouldn’t be stressed. Sometimes my family have small quarrels because they are stressed about preparations, and getting everything ready before our relatives come over.

What was the best Christmas present you ever received? Why?

My best Christmas present was probably a towel with a picture of Darth Vader. I am a huge fan of Star Wars and it’s not easy to find Star Wars merchandise. I got this present from my sister who’s 18.





Full name: Elena Pilla

Country/state/hometown: Switzerland, Zurich

Age: 24

University: HTW Chur

Course major: Tourism

How do you find Singapore and her people?

Singapore is very awesome and exciting. It’s a very green country with a nice contrast between modernity and heritage. People here are very helpful and friendly, especially at school.

List your top 3 most memorable experiences in Singapore so far.

Meeting nice people and other exchange students at school, my city tour with other exchange students, and a beach party at Sentosa.

What do you like and find interesting about Singapore?

I like the cultural mix of people in different areas (China Town, Little India, etc.), the modern and high buildings (at Marina Bay or Raffles place for example), shopping, and the food.

How do you celebrate Christmas back in your country?

We usually have a nice dinner on the 24th of December with family members and our Italian neighbors (they are good old friends). After dinner at midnight, we’ll go to church together. Then we’ll go back home and exchange Christmas presents. Sometimes, we’ll play cards after that. On the 25th December we meet again to have a good lunch together.

Who do you celebrate Christmas with?

Family members and our old friends.

What do you eat during Christmas?

Usually we eat “Fondue Chinoise” (where meat and vegetables are cooked in a shared pot of broth), and for supper, we have Christmas cookies and cakes.

What are the 5 most important things to do before Christmas?

In Switzerland, it is very important for me to

1) Bake lots of different Christmas cookies

2) Buy presents for family and boyfriend

3) Meet close friends to have coffee together before celebrating with the family.

4) Appreciate and be thankful for all good things in life, such as family and friends, and health

5) Enjoy Christmas time without stress.

What is your ideal Christmas experience?

Have a nice Christmas celebration with friends and family, where everybody is in a good mood and has fun.

What was the best Christmas present you ever received? Why?

My boyfriend bought me a photography course. I always wanted to do such a course but thought I wouldn’t have time during my studies. I really enjoyed it and learnt a lot about how to use my single lens reflex camera during the course.


Julian Abraham Chua is an NYP graduate from School of Business Management (SBM). His passion for writing was ignited when he completed an overseas UK writing course and started contributing to the portal while he was still a student on the campus. He has since written for various magazines and publications including Straits Times, SG Entrepreneurs, Spin Asia, TimeOut Singapore, NTUC lifestyle, Campus magazine and SPCA newsletter. Besides writing, he adores soccer, has his own online business Stationaire and performs with his metal band Grottesca around town.  

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