12 Days of Christmas – Charlene Chua

Here is Charlene Chua, another SCBWI colleague, who hails from Ontario Canada. It so super to have her along to share her Christmas memory of Santa presents – and Christmas food.

My favorite Christmas memories are probably opening up the presents left by ‘Santa’ on Christmas day! Santa always seemed extra magical to me because I grew up in an apartment block in Singapore – we had no chimney, and there were grills on all the windows. For the life of me I could not figure out how he got in without chimney access. I didn’t have a Christmas stocking either… I believe my parents clipped up a pillowcase to the foot of my bed. Yet, stocking or not, it was still exciting to get up on Christmas morning and see the pillowcase bulging with whatever gift Santa had left. Some years Santa gave awesome presents, and some years they were only so-so. It puzzled me as to why Santa only got things right sometimes, not always. I supposed that the magic unicorn would have be a little difficult to procure (and stuff in said pillowcase), but other things like a Snake Mountain playset should have been do-able…

The other fond Christmas memory I have is of Christmas lunch. I would normally get whisked to church on Christmas morning for mass (something that always annoyed me as it meant I could never get down to playing with the new toys I just received). After mass, my family and I would head over to my aunt’s place for Christmas lunch. My mother’s family is Eurasian, a small but distinct culture in Singapore made up of the descendants of European colonialists who had families with the local people. Being predominantly Christian, Christmas is a special time for the Eurasian community, who celebrate it with revelry and specially cooked dishes. In my family, one of the signature dishes was a greenish curry called Curry Feng. There were also other specialties like Devil’s Curry (which may have been an ironic joke), and Buah Keluak, a strange stewed dish made from a fruit that is apparently deadly if not prepared properly! There was also spiked fruit punch, that I was allowed to drink a little of (just to taste…. so they said). While the number of strangers at the party always made me feel shy, I nonetheless enjoyed the food and festive air during these Christmas lunches. I also got more presents, which didn’t hurt either!


Charlene Chua is an illustrator who creates art for kids of all ages. She has illustrated 6 pictures books to date, and has worked on various educational books for a variety of clients. Originally from Singapore, she now lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada with her husband and two cats.

Find more from Charlene here: http://www.charlenechua.com


One Response to 12 Days of Christmas – Charlene Chua

  1. Curry Feng sounds yum, and Devil’s Curry sounds like it would be very HOT! My childhood Christmases are a mix of Irish/Scottish and French-Canadian, so we had Christmas pudding (I didn’t like the pudding so took the smallest portion possible and covered it in custard) from the one side and Tortiere (meat pie) from the other. Butter tarts were also a classic in my mom’s family, with all the auntie’s stealth competing for who made the best ones (oh, no, Gisele, yours are the best! Mine are just okay.) I do miss the family gatherings but don’t miss the -20 to -40 C winters!

    A. Colleen Jones January 4, 2017 at 1:33 am Reply

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