WE'VE all had them: Christmases that were disappointing, boring or just plain uneventful . . . times when you realise that just because it's the season of goodwill and peace on Earth you're not necessarily guaranteed to have a good time. Or, if we've been lucky, there have been celebrations that have sparkled with the festive spirit, nostalgia, romance and even adventure. Still, many local personalities who were asked about their favourite Christmas memories couldn't really think of any. 'Memorable Christmas?' asked Paul Hsu of Elite Concepts, which runs some of the territory's top restaurants. 'I can only think of destructive ones: too much eating and drinking. It's never really a special time because we work through it. Maybe it will be different this year.' Patricia Higgins, of luxury brands importer Bluebell, said she always spent Christmas with her family at their home in the south of France, but insisted it wasn't all that special. But what she did enjoy was flying on Christmas Day. With so few people travelling, it was like being 'on a private jet', she said. But even uneventful celebrations can mean something: fashion designer William Tang says the festive season has been special since he decided to forgo fancy parties for the warmth of the family home and his mother's cooking. 'Since one Christmas in the late 1980s, I've been spending the season at home with my family and I think it's great,' said Tang. The gathering either takes place in Canada or at the family village in the New Territories. Now, home-style celebrations far from the party crowd have become a ritual. 'When I am at our home in the New Territories I visit a Catholic church nearby. Although I'm not Catholic, it's nice to be there during Midnight Mass. It's more fun than a Christmas party, and much more memorable.' That all sounds too placid for art and antiquities dealer Caroline Barkes, who spent last Christmas on a boat cruising down a river in Papua New Guinea, together with three Australian teachers, a property tycoon from Manhattan and his wife, and a Newsweek reporter, none of whom she'd ever met before. Having antagonised the local villagers by showing up late to a singsong, the group found their boat hijacked by tribesmen, who ran off with their keys and three members of the crew. Gentle negotiations between the group leader and the village chief resolved the mini-drama, but Barkes said it was the most exciting Christmas she'd ever had. Fitness instructor Beth Narain is equally adventurous. Four years ago she decided to spend Christmas with the Dalai Lama in Benaras, southern India, where she sat in a group 'praying and chanting all day, not understanding a word'. 'Well, at least it was different,' she said. 'I tend to run away from a traditional Christmas. I think the whole thing is overrated, with everybody rushing around to buy presents. It's best to do it Chinese-style - give everyone a packet with a bit of money in it and tell them to buy their own gifts.' That idea mortified beauty-school owner Frederique Deleage, who said her fondest memory involved a brightly-decorated tree, gaily-wrapped presents, a log fire and a snow-covered chalet. Deleage enjoyed this picture-perfect Christmas with her family at a chalet two hours from Montreal when she was 25. 'It was dark outside, really a 'silent night', with snowflakes falling and we could smell the scent of pine in the air as we sat in front of a warm fire. It was a true Christmas because we were friends and family together and it was cosy and relaxed. 'I'll always remember it as the best Christmas I've ever had because all the ingredients were there. I've never had one like it again. I still feel nostalgic when I think about it.' Lawyer and China business expert Dr Andrew Wang also said he was nostalgic about last Christmas, but for quite a different reason. A few weeks earlier, his wife gave birth to a baby girl.