I know I have expressed a lot of criticism towards Malaysia and it is time for me to show my appreciation towards this country of mine. There is one great thing about Malaysia and I don’t think anyone can deny this.
Every year, every ethnic or religious groups come together to celebrate and share their individual festivals freely. Although real unity among these diverse groups of Malaysians still have much to be desired, at least public holidays are declared, invitations to open houses are extended, gifts and greetings are exchanged and last but not least, the spirit and festive mood can be seen all over the country, especially shopping malls.
It may all seem so commercialised and in fact one of the most profitable seasons for many businesses, but it doesn’t reduce the festive mood and spirit of the people, particularly children and those who have been away from home.
I had a chance to return home a few weeks ago and needless to say, I made my regular trips to the mall to shop for things which I cannot find in Cambodia. Since it is the Christmas season, the whole mall literally glitters with anything conceivably Christmassy, all but real snow (a pity!).
I don’t really know why but Christmas seems to be a time when shopping malls simply go mad and excessive with the decorations. Perhaps it’s because all the things which signify Christmas is so magical and foreign; the angel, Santa Claus, snow flakes (even if it’s made of cotton), reindeers, candy canes, sleigh bells, giant socks, pine trees, stars, poinsettias, etc.
When you look at Chinese New Year, what is so magical or special about “ang pows” (red packets), mandarin oranges, kumquat trees, pussy willows or fire crackers? Come Hari Raya, I am just shivering with excitement when I see the ketupat (squarish rice dumpling wrapped in weaved palm leaves). I have to say though that Deepavali is kind of exciting with its display of colours and array of smells. But, Christmas is just…. magical.
Thankfully, the decorators do know what they are doing as they manage to create that Christmas atmosphere without fail. The only shortcomings are the fact that the moment you walk out from the mall, the feeling seems to disappear although you have probably bought more Christmas stuff than necessary, mainly induced by the jolly but also treacherous carols and jingles being played at the mall.
I was nearly seduced into buying a fake Christmas tree just so I could have the pleasure of decorating the tree despite the fact that I wasn’t going to be home during Christmas. Fortunately, the Scrooge reminded me on time that it would be merely frivolous.
Anyhow, I decided to take advantage of the situation and held a dinner party for a group of close friends. It was supposed to be a belated birthday celebration for all of us, but I threw in a surprise of my own. I put together some Christmas paraphernalia and substituted the tree with my dining table. After all, Christmas isn’t really Christmas without good friends, food, drinks and all things red, green, silver and gold.
Now that I am back in Cambodia, I can’t believe that the Christmas spirit has finally caught on. A lot more mellow and less extravagant, shops, restaurants and buildings are being decorated with flashing fairy lights and Christmas knick-knacks. The same Christmas carols are being played and you can’t help but to hum along. Although Christmas isn’t really a public holiday here, suffice to say that what has initially being a Western concept, is now being celebrated all over the world.
I think that should essentially be the spirit of Christmas. It is not about the snow, reindeer, tree, Santa Claus and presents, it’s about taking the time and effort to put them up so that everybody can share and join those who do celebrate them.
Here’s wishing you a joyous and peaceful Christmas. Do remember your family, friends and those who are less fortunate during this season.