Christmas is in the air!

Christmas is coming early to Kuching City. Although the festival is about a month away, Christmas trees and decorations are already on sale in many stores or adorning them.

During a visit to a store recently, I could not res i s t buying two simple, adorable and colourful cutouts of Santa Claus and a small cute plastic candle operated by LED batteries. Such plastic candles are a sign of the modern changing times.

Now, we can use candles without fear of setting our houses on fire! Every year, I make it a tradition to buy simple Christmas decorations for my desk in the off ice.

The cutouts of Sant a Claus and the plastic candle are there to remind me Christmas will be here soon and that we will be welcoming 2018 soon. When you workin an enclosed office environment where you don’t get to see the sun unless you open the windows, such visible reminders, I think, are important. I love Christmas even though I have never hosted a Christmas open house.

When I was i n high school, I joined a church choir in Sibu and long before Christmas, we, members of the choir, would be practising and singing Christmas carols under the guidance of a Dutch priest known as Father Marcus. A few days before Christmas, we would go Christmas carolling and on Christmas eve, all the choir members would sing during the mass.

Members of the choir group comprised students of Sacred Heart Secondary School and St Elizabeth’s Convent School, now renamed SMK St Elizabeth.

If you were a student then, y o u would know that the schools were separated by a wide field and fences. Sacred Hear t School was an all -boys school while St Elizabeth’s School was an allgirls school. Since opposite poles attract, over the years, many of the girls from St Elizabeth’s School end up marrying the boys from Sacred Heart School. When I was studying at St Elizabeth’s School, there were no Internet and mobile phones. The choir allowed the boys and girls from the two schools to meet a few hours a week. Since St Elizabeth’s School was a convent school then, Catholic prayers were said and hymns sang during the school assembly every morning. Because of the school assemblies and because I was a church choir member, I could sing almost all the hymns in the Catholic prayer book then.

My earliest memory of Christmas was of a g l i t t e r Christmas card on one of the wall s in my grandmother ’s house. I was a preteen then.

There for the year-end school holidays, I was at tracted by the glitter on the card and the beautiful picture of a Christmas tree laden with Christmas decorations.

Later on, as a preteen also, I learnt about a white Christmas from a school textbook. In one of the stories, a Malaysian boy had left the country to leave in England. He described his first encounter with the snow and snowman in the story.

Subsequently, I learnt more about white Chr istmas from movies and novels. For many of us, thanks to the power of commercialisation, Christmas is synonymous with Santa Claus, jingle bells and Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer.

For many people, Christmas, which coincides with the long year-end school hol idays in Malaysia, is a time for family reunions, for renewing ties, exchanging gifts and going on holidays. For Chr i s t ians, however, Christmas, which falls on December 25 every year, is a festival that celebrates the birth of their saviour, Jesus Christ. When I close my eyes, I can still see the glittery beautiful Christmas card on the wal l of my grandmother ’s hous e and re cal l the s tor y of the Malaysian boy’s first Christmas in England. I look forward to Christmas and 2018. What about you?

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