Ever since the Japanese invasion in December 1941, and the colony’s surrender on Christmas Night, seasonal festivities here have been overshadowed by that date’s larger events. Later generations did their best to sidestep unhappy memories, or otherwise leave them in the past, as far as possible, for their children’s sake. For a generation who came to Hong Kong after the war – whether from elsewhere in China or further afield – Hong Kong’s “Captive Christmas” was an historical footnote, with minimal personal relevance. But how was Christmas 1941 celebrated as the city went quiet, and in the years that followed? Little remembered today, Hong Kong’s shops and markets were bursting with imported produce when the Japanese invaded, and sizeable quantities remained available – for a price – for the next couple of years. Whatever overly-cautious, present-day “Best Before” dates on packaging might suggest, most tinned, bottled, salted and preserved food items are safe to eat for years – sometimes decades. That, after all, was their point. Like any other religious celebration, Christmas has its own array of seasonally specific foods, which come into the shops long before the actual day, so householders can stock up, and various home-made items can be baked or prepared. Dried fruit and nuts were a Christmas staple; any household with a domestic reputation to maintain made their own cakes and puddings to closely guarded family recipes. And so it remains today, among more traditionally minded, discerning persons of taste. For other individuals, recourse to tinned Christmas puddings was an easy option, especially for those without adequate kitchen facilities. Imported products have always enjoyed a cachet in Hong Kong, even when the foreign import – mass-produced, tinned and transported for several months in the hold of a freighter – was inferior to something produced locally from fresh ingredients. And so it was with Christmas cakes and puddings; in this regard, 1941 – like any other year – was no different. When hostilities ended, store-cupboard supplies were eked out over a long period. Quantities found their way into prisoner-of-war camps, and, along with edible fats, flour and other ingredients, were kept in storage for festive dates. Camp authorities astutely realised that an occasional good meal prepared from familiar ingredients distracted people from poor-quality, inadequate and mostly alien daily fare, doing as much or more to raise morale than anything else. Various prison-camp diaries record these attempts at a festive meal, with much wry humour at the results; a dollop of tinned bully beef became “The Roast Beef of Olde England”, and a larger than usual piece of bread, with a few raisins studded within, was “Plum Pudding”. Christmas, for many, is a time of hope and renewal. And so it was, for some, in 1941. Lieutenant Drummond Hunter, a young officer in the 2nd Battalion The Royal Scots, had been injured during hostilities in the New Territories, and was in traction at the British Military Hospital on Bowen Road, recovering but unable to get out of bed. His fiancé, Peggie Scotcher, was a Hong Kong girl – her father was a local businessman, who also fought with the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps. A promising ballerina, who would have gone to England to train professionally, had the war not supervened, she was a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse at the same hospital. On Christmas Night, they were married by the military padre, the bride at the bedside, and the groom flat on his back. A tinned Christmas pudding, with a candle against the darkness, served as their wedding cake. After spending the rest of the war in separate camps, the couple were reunited, and recounted their story to me, at their Edinburgh home, in the mid-1990s.