“Deck the halls with boughs of holly” goes one Christmas carol. While this may not be easily done in Asia, there are still plenty of festive ways to celebrate this season of joy.
Christmas was initially celebrated in Western countries to mark the birth of Jesus, but today it has become a commerce-and-celebration event in countries that do not even practice Christianity. In December, festive decorations appear in big cities across Asia, and is marked by gift-giving, parties and sharing food with loved ones. In Vietnam, they still have a log cake called a Bûche de Noël, a legacy left behind by the (Christian) French colonialism.
In ancient Europe, it is common for a goose dish to be the star of the festive spread. Today, it has been replaced by the turkey in the United States, while in Asia, particularly the Philippines, the spread is likely to include roast chicken, duck or a whole suckling pig.
In Asia, Christmas is celebrated most flamboyantly in the Philippines, where festive music starts playing as early as September, and on Christmas Eve people eat Lechon (roast pig), Bibingka (rice-flour and coconut cake), Puto bumbong (sticky rice and yam steamed in bamboo), and other sweets.
Blending traditional and local flavours is common during this season of celebration. In Hong Kong, Yamm at the Mira Hotel has added a bit of theatrics to the Christmas buffet with a turkey carving station, while The Bostonian at The Langham opts for oysters and sashimi alongside the traditional fare. Kitchen at W Hong Kong also mixes the traditional roast goose with wagyu beef and Tasmanian salmon with a passionfruit boost.
In Singapore, Mezza9 at the Grand Hyatt serves Thai-style chicken with honey next to slow-roasted turkey with apple sauce, while the Marriot brings a local twist to a Christmas dessert with the Kaya Namachoco Yule Logcake. Meanwhile in Vietnam, the French influence is still very strongly prevalent in the Sofitel Sukhumvit’s rotisserie-style chicken and French cheeses.
The food may vary, but the spirit of celebration remains the same everywhere.