Every year during Christmas, I try to invite people who do not have any family or friends in Singapore to our home for dinner.
I might be at a coffee shop and meet a lone stranger or a couple without any holiday plans and I would spontaneously invite them to come and share Christmas Eve dinner with my family, because it is a yearly tradition.
It has become such a yearly affair that my wife, and my mother-in-law, who stays with us, would ask: “Who are you going to bring this time?”
This year was no different. Albeit with respect to the pandemic.
I wanted to do something for the foreign workers as they have been going through a tough time this year. Since January, there has been a group of workers widening the drain and raising the road along our street to prevent the occasional flash floods. When Covid-19 hit, they stopped working for a while and resumed a few months ago. They have been working non-stop and I thought it would be nice to bring the joy of Christmas to them.
I approached my neighbours and asked if they would like to contribute some food for a simple potluck lunch. Without hesitation, they agreed!
Our neighbours contributed home-cooked chicken and fish curry, kueh salat, sayur lodeh, canned drinks and ice cream. I went to a nearby Indian stall and got some spinach dhal and mutton curry with chapati while my wife cooked two pots of rice to eat with the dishes.
On Christmas Eve, we set the dishes out on a table outside my house and the workers took turns to help themselves to the food. To keep within Covid-19 restrictions of five visitors per household, we had the workers come in pairs and three of us – from my neighbours and family – took turns to serve them.
The workers enjoyed themselves thoroughly and even took second portions. Nothing was wasted. All of us felt good because we shared Christmas with them and the spirit of Christmas is about giving!
One of them even sent me a video thanking us! He said that the workers all enjoyed the food very much and were happy for the delicious lunch.
This is also the first time that all my neighbours did something like this.
In all the years I have been staying here, none of us have actually come together, although we know and we greet each other in passing. Ironically, this year’s “party”, with all the social distancing measures, was one of our best gatherings, even with most of our exchanges done over text and phone!
My Muslim neighbour who lives at the end of the street has a huge mango tree and every season, he will harvest the mangoes and give it to as many neighbours as he can. He does this every year without us asking.
They are friendly and generous, so I wasn’t surprised that they were willing to chip in for this meal.
The neighbour who chipped in with the pot of chicken curry also sent me a word of encouragement. He texted me after the party: “Thanks for sharing the joy and happiness of Christmas with all the neighbours and foreign workers.”
Sharing this simple, spontaneous meal with the neighbours and foreign workers on this street is definitely one of the fondest memories I have of staying here.