If you’ve recently relocated to Asia, you’re probably patting yourselves on the back thinking that you’ve taken the politics out of Christmas this year. Congrats, you may have sidestepped the decision of how to divvy up the ‘Big Day’ between family members… But whether it’s burning the Christmas turkey or failing to keep presents away from grabby little hands, you’re never far away from a Christmas Crisis, even in our Hong Kong hideaway.
With your sanity in mind, Sassy Mama has compiled an Ultimate Christmas Survival Guide to help you deal with some of the most common festive dramas and best escape routes. Yes, we’ve totally Bear Grylls’d Christmas for you. We parachuted in with nothing but tinsel and goodwill to mankind, wrestled with a turkey, and lived to tell the tale. Here’s how to survive Christmas with your wits and relationships intact…
1. Surviving the “morning after”
You started early with a Mimosa with your Christmas pyjamas on, and why not, you deserve it. It’s Christmas Day for crying out loud. Time to celebrate, eat, drink and be merry. The mimosas turn into champers because its no longer breakfast anymore. Orange juice is passé. There’s a momentary lull whilst people disperse to shower and try on their new jewellery/festive jumper/Batman costume. Drinking then resumes with a pre-dinner cocktail, more champagne, wine (white and red) followed by port and dessert wine, maybe a liquor coffee or another digestif, then the bottle that was bought as a gift, someone suggests spirits, and you’re at the back of the drinks cabinet and stumble across a dust-covered liquor that was bought for a Nigella recipe, but decide that it’s Christmas and the kids are now in bed so why not, in-fact let’s make everyone a shot…
I’m a Sassy Christmas Survivor: We have tried everything and there’s no failsafe, but we would recommend that you keep the following handy on your bedside table/kitchen cupboard for when the last lingering moments of Christmas Day ebb and your body screams “NO MORE…”
- Vitamins to the Rescue: A multivitamin like Berocca (available at Watsons or Mannings) will help restore the nutrients your body may have lost during a festive blow out.
- Alka-Seltzer, an oldie but a goody: This effervescent godsend turns 83 this year, can you believe it, and its been curing hangovers for nearly that long. It contains sodium bicarbonate (or baking soda to you and I) which helps settle a queasy tummy by neutralising stomach acid. (Available at ParknShop.)
- Coffee Lovers take note: For caffeine enthusiasts skipping your regular java fix, the morning after is a big no-no. You may end up with a pounding caffeine-withdrawal headache on top of your hangover. Don’t go double espresso, a latte (Gingerbread Latte, if you haven’t had enough) will do nicely.
- The Fry Up Cure: Apparently, a greasy spoon breakie isn’t a proven hangover cure… According to The Doctor’s Hangover Handbook, a fry up could end in heartburn. Instead, the author recommends eating light and staying hydrated, as well as “honey sandwiches”. Although we aren’t medics ourselves, we say that a bacon and egg sarnie IS sometimes the answer.
- Pocari Sweat: To non-Hong Kongers this is the most ludicrously named rehydration drink ever. Sweat… in the brand name?! Once you get over that, it really is a very good idea. Replacing lost fluids will make you feel much less miserable and ready for round two. (Available at 7Eleven, supermarkets and pharmacies across Hong Kong.)
- Exercise (yes, you heard that correctly): we are not suggesting a Boxing Day Grit class, but a gentle workout could help you feel better than you think, hence the reason for the famous Boxing Day walk. Hike it off with all the family on one of Hong Kong’s phenomenal trails. Wish ‘Happy Christmas’ to passersby and suddenly Hong Kong doesn’t feel so big at all. See here for our fave hikes.
- A Well-Timed Nap: Sleep is a known hangover cure. Find a quiet corner or discreetly slip back to bed, your foggy brain and achy body will thank you for it. Just about everybody can get away with a nap at some point, it’s practically a Christmas tradition.
2. Visiting in-laws (outlaws) and surprise last-minute guests
Whether planned or last-minute arrivals, Christmas visitors can add an element of tension and unpredictability. It’s really a gamble: what with excesses in all things, especially food and drink, and emotions running high, its a recipe for disaster. We have heard many a tale of woe, from highly critical grandparents who huffed and puffed throughout their stay to a mother-in-law who arrived for Christmas with a new boyfriend in tow (a surprise special guest). In hindsight, Granny and her chap skinny dipping in the hot tub after quite a few drinks on Christmas Eve makes for a great story, but not at the time (especially with the kiddies peering out of their bedroom window eagerly anticipating a different kind of ‘fat man’.)
I’m a Sassy Christmas Survivor: Count to 10. Count to 10 again. Christmas is a time of year when manners and proportion go out of the window. [Some] visitors feel its perfectly fine to decamp themselves and all of their Christmas whims and wishes on you and yours, when at any other time of the year they would at least offer to stay in a hotel. No one wants to be the one to say that there’s ‘no room at the inn’, especially at this time of year. But if you’re brave enough and they’re understanding enough, here’s our pick of some of the best ‘solutions’ around town. And if Granny and her new boyfriend don’t get the hint, take up the offer yourselves for a stress free Christmas ‘staycation’.
- The Hotel Option: With limitless possibilities from the trad to the glam, the bijoux to the no frills, there’s a hotel for every style and budget. For a pretty exceptional heritage-inspired gem, weave your way through the feather boas and fancy dress and you’ll find The Pottinger. Polished, poised and perfumed, the 68 well-appointed hotel rooms offer marble baths, king-size beds and a calming vintage feel. A stone’s throw (or a short cab) ride to your family in Central, but light years away from the guest bedroom and the Ghost of Christmases past. For a comfy, reasonable and reliable stay with no frills, try one of the six Butterfly Hotels and Serviced Apartments.
- A home away from home: With a high proportion of Hong Kongers away this Christmas, we expect there to be a correspondingly high number of amazing pads available for short stays on Airbnb (who have over 800,000 unique properties on their site worldwide). We love this spacious 2-bedroom beauty in Mid-Level. With a daily maid service and swimming pool on-site you might not catch a glimpse of your visitors after all. If you’re very lucky, you might even have a friend willing to hand their keys over gratis for the duration. Perfect overspill for a stress-free Christmas!
- The Eating Out Option: If all else fails and you are all squeezed into (much) less than 1,500 sq ft, then take everyone out for Christmas Dinner and let the venue, food and staff do all the hard work.
3: Christmas morning present opening etiquette
Each and every family has their own traditions: one present on Christmas Eve before bed, a stocking at the foot of the bed in the morning, or all the gifts once the adults are fully awake with a cup of coffee in hand for the strong-willed and fearless. However, most fall into two major present opening camps on Christmas morning, and sometimes a bit of both, when no one is looking.
There’s the ‘Rip & Tear’ method involving dramatic, unadulterated ripping and tearing by uncontrolled individuals (both adults and children). This method usually keeps to small numbers, the young and close family and friends only. Participants wear pyjamas and they don’t care what their hair looks like. Teenagers will request “no photos” as they will pose for selfies later.
The second group is the “Open-one-gift-at-a-time-and-talk-about-it-for-several-uninterupted-minutes” or “Slow & Reflective”, as we like to call it. As well as keeping the adults from their boozy lunch and making the kids want to explode with pent-up gift receiving fervour, this method is intended to suck the excitement out of the moment. A sassy mama who from time to time has had to endure this method, was made to talk for over five minutes about her ‘joy’ in receiving scented drawer liners. For those of you who have never come across scented drawer liners, they do just that, scent your drawers. Nobody really wants their smalls to smell of Vanilla or White Musk, especially in 2014.
I’m a Sassy Christmas Survivor: In our experience, the best thing to do if you have a present opening conflict is to adopt a few traditions from each of the main camps. Forewarn Great Aunty Edna (with the nervous disposition) that the little ones have an unadulterated twenty minutes opening the presents from Santa’s bountiful pile whilst she has a restorative cup of tea (or sherry) in a quiet corner. After that, there will be an opportunity for calm and thoughtful gift giving and receiving with appreciative feedback to follow.
If this UN-worthy diplomacy fails to please one or more party, we advise a strategically placed ice bucket and a bottle of champagne at the ready. No matter what happens, a glass of something will be on hand to steady frayed nerves…. And if you really need to make a strategic exit to take five, say that you are popping out to reconfirm the delivery of the Christmas turkey. No one will question that.
4: The gift emergency
In terms of the children, it is rare to have a gift emergency on Christmas morning because all of you mums and dads out there have invested time, due diligence and funds into ensuring this can’t and won’t happen. But should it… [shudder]… happen where you might have momentarily taken your eye off the ball or a postal disaster renders some of the ‘main gifts’ MIA, you might have a very tearful person (we hope they’re a child, but you never know) on hand because Santa hasn’t delivered.
The ‘emergency present drawer’ is a Christmas, nay a life, essential. It’s a stash of tenuously personal gifts for all occasions. This is your salvation when you realise (as the pile of presents under the tree is fast diminishing) that your visiting Father-in-Law has little or nothing in the way of gifts because your husband thought that you would buy for him and vice-versa. This is your cue to make an excuse and dip into your drawer for a quick save. Here’s our pick for the drawer:
- ‘Smellies’: Kielh’s limited edition festive label products designed by the artist duo Craig & Karl are a ready made gift for just about anyone (from $295).
- Stationery: Smythson ‘Inspirations and Ideas’ Pocket Notebook ($640, Lane Crawford) with a bright green cover could be for him or her, or eventually if no one claims it, you (we can dream).
- Cufflinks: Classic Oval T-Bar Cufflinks from Links of London ($1,200).
- Chocolates: A sumptuous box of Godiva chocs (prices vary, available at Godiva IFC or online).
- Kids: A Jellycat bashful bunny soft toy ($180 at Petit Bazaar in Central and Wan Chai, as well as various retailers online).
- Cath Kidston stationery set and pencil case (prices vary, available in six locations including APM and Hysan Place).
- Scrabble (Deluxe Edition, $500 at Toys “R” Us).
Congratulations, you survived Christmas!
Long after the Fat Man has left the building…
So you overindulged, it’s Christmas. Banish the guilt, you can start afresh after the Christmas decorations have come down and the ludicrously expensive tree has been disposed of. It would be rude to start before that. Here are our fave detoxes to get you back on a healthy track…
Here’s to a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!