Christmas was always special.
If ever they went throughout the year needing anything, her parents made sure that at Christmas they had everything—even if it meant being creative.
This year, they did not have enough money for decorations and her mother made everyone get into the act. For three months before Christmas, every time a family member used an egg, it was broken in a particular way. Each eggshell was saved up and afterward it was painted. Her father went in the garden and got a tree branch. The leaves were taken off and spray painted "white" by the neighbourhood mechanic for a few dollars. Her father then put the tree in a five-pound KLIM pan that was wrapped in gift paper.
It was Christmas Eve and her siblings helped in putting up the string of lights they got from their aunt. They carefully ran a thread through each egg shell and hung it on the tree. Meiling stood back in amazement and thought it was the best tree ever.
Her father was busy in the kitchen. Maywan was helping him as she was the only one who could cook like him. Her father was from Canton City, China, and every year he made sure they had a feast on Christmas Day.
Her father was making roast pork and he had the pitch-oil tin oven on top the fireside. His annual dishes included Peking roast duck and shark fin soup.
The duck was home grown and the shark fin was bought and cleaned from a fisherman. The aroma came from the kitchen and already Meiling's belly was grumbling, thinking of all the tasty Chinese dishes.
The monotonous sound of the sewing machine sounded like music to Meiling's ears, for the rooms would be transformed—making it almost magical.
Next morning, she heard David cry out with excitement. Santa had brought a racing car for him. He told Meiling, "Boy! Santa real good, he knew exactly what colour car I wanted." Meiling smiled, for she knew who Santa really was—how hardworking they were to make their dreams come true.
Her mother was unrelenting that the older children should get ready for church. When they came back, they were able to open their Christmas gifts. It was a Christmas tradition: the children would go to church and when they come home, the family would have breakfast and then open their presents.
Meiling could hardly contain herself throughout the mass. At last it was finished and she and her siblings rushed home. The table was already laden with a whole array of food. She looked around at her family as they recited prayers of gratitude. She felt a sense of happiness. For Meiling was taught that the best gifts were "gifts of time and love".
No expensive gifts or brand names. Gifts of time and love are what make you remember it being "the best Christmas ever".