The air feels festive in my neighbourhood, and it looks so colourful here with the Santa decorations, bells and wreaths on the doors and fairy lights outside the window.
This year is the third time that I’ve spent Christmas in Rome.
Normally the day before, we’d spend it over my in-law’s house and we’d eat a little too much, and talk while we wait till midnight and then proceed in opening our presents.
The thing is, Christmas doesn’t have much significance to me as I never grew up with it. But I am always happy to be included with my extended family – just spending time together, bonding over delicious home-made food, watching the telley and have a nice time together.
Even though I am not a Christian, I firmly believe that there is nothing wrong in sharing happiness together.
When I was about 11 years old, and living at my old neighbourhood in Jurong, me and my childhood friend Michael and his sister were celebrating Mid-Autumn festival. We’d be lighting up candles and then we’d walk around proudly with our paper lanterns. It was such innocent fun.
But then it was ruined when a group of kids came, walking up to me :
“Tsk! You know, you’re not being very “Malay” playing with paper lanterns. This is a Chinese custom. Stop it! You are being disrespectful to your race!”
Of course, being so young, I didn’t have the capacity to express coherently how I felt. But I knew that I wasn’t doing anything wrong and I was genuinely happy spending time with Michael and his sister. I couldn’t understand why anyone could be such a kill joy.
The irony now though, after five years of living in Rome, I think I am slowly losing my enthusiasm for spending Hari Raya here. Compared to Singapore, I don’t have a big family here. So when I try to invite people over, they don’t seem to share the same enthusiasm, which doesn’t feel fair considering that I do try hard to care when it comes to their holidays.
Is it so wrong to feel this way? Perhaps this is something that most migrants feel when they live overseas for an extended period of time.