Homage to Heritage

By Eve Wee-Ang, Photos by Ney White and Ivette Sotres 2021-12-28 17:09:50

Wrapping up the year with memories of home. 

When I was putting this article together trying to think up ideas on how to throw a party for the holidays, a memory jolted me. It was our first Christmas as newly-weds back in 2005 and we had just settled into our new marital home. My husband and I aren’t very social people, but that year, we decided to invite all our close friends and family over and partied till we welcomed 2006. Reliving this memory makes me miss home and the deep longing to be surrounded by people who knew me since I was a child. But with the pandemic travelling restrictions, returning home for the holidays is no longer as fuss free as before. An idea hatched in my head. What if for this holiday, we return to our roots and stage a party grounded in our culture and heritage? Since we can’t be home, we can still recreate our childhood memories and turn it into a party from where we are from. It will be a wonderful invitation for our friends in Shanghai to take a glimpse into our world before they met us.




Therefore, it was with much delight when I met Ney White, an integrative nutrition health coach (WeChat: neywhite) from Mexico who is enjoying her 5th year in Shanghai with her family of five. I was there to pick her brain with a tipoff from a friend who had attended Ney’s homemade parties and was impressed by her creativity. The instant I met Ney, there was a kindred connection between us. She was sharing with me the importance of Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, observed by the Mexicans on the 1st and 2nd of November which honours and celebrates a dead loved one’s life with an elaborately decorated altar to welcome their spirit home. In the Mexican culture, a party is not a party without music, dance, food, and flowers. Even in life and death, there is joy to be found and a reason to celebrate. I was sold.

Knee deep in soulful conversation about our heritage and history, Ney invited me into her world, and I, a born and bred Singaporean, invited her to mine. I started weaving together how to turn these precious sharing into the tapestry of a heritage-rich home party. Here’s what we came up with.



Play what you played as a child

Mexico: Pinatas are the ubiquitous party hallmark of Mexico. No child’s birthday party is complete without this colourful papier-mâché filled with treats and candies, and the experience of hitting it into smithereens as everyone breaks into an adrenaline rush to collect as much loot as possible. But there is a catch to it. The pinata must be strung high from a rope by a person whose mischievous intention is to pull the pinata away whenever someone tries to hit it. Even better if the hitter is blindfolded. To ensure everyone gets a fair duration for smashing, a pinata song is sung to make the game last longer. For customized pinatas for adults and children, look for Ivette Sotres (WeChat: Sotreslvettew) whose Kungfu Panda pinatas are totally on-point.


Music transports us back to a time in our life

Singapore: When I was in primary school, we had a weekly assembly where we had to sing ancient folk songs that celebrated the human spirit. These traditional songs, mainly from Southeast Asia, were passed down from one generation to another. Singapore’s national language is Malay, hence many songs were sung in Malay. Songs sung were Chan Mali Chan, Rasa Sayang, Dayong Sampan, Di Tanjong Katong. When I listen to them now, it brings me back to my childhood growing up in multi-racial Singapore. Weave your childhood songs into your Christmas playlist and share with your guests how the songs and their meanings evoke memories for you.



Food that reminds us of home

Mexico: For Ney, her top five favourite Mexican foods to serve at parties are guacamole with totopos, flautas, esquites, Mexican fruit cups and chicharrones.

Singapore: For me, my top five favorite Singaporean foods for parties are chilli crabs, satay, rojak, fried fishballs and nonya kuehs.

Serve your home favourites alongside Christmas turkey and fruit cake.

The beauty of being expats is the myriad of cultures and heritages we are exposed to. Fusing them together in your holiday celebration is a wonderful way of paying homage to time-honoured traditions. Happy Holidays!