Letter to editor
EVERY year, Dec 25 brings back nostalgia from 43 years ago when I first became a Christian.
In the first few years, it has always been fun to join small groups on going from one home to another to sing Christmas carols and ringing the Christmas bell.
Much to the delight of the young ones, one of us would shout, “Ho Ho Ho! Santa is coming!” Usually, it is the one “uncle” with the biggest belly who would adorn the Santa’s red costume and put on Santa’s long white beard, lugging on his back a bag full of goodies for children.
These children eagerly await their presents by behaving themselves. I have seen slim Santas before but they were not as “jolly” as the Old Big Belly Santa from yesteryears.
Christmas as I was growing up
Going back even further – when I was perhaps five or six years old when I was raised as a Taoist/Buddhist – it was mummy and my older sisters who asked me to sleep early. Although we were not Christians, we still enjoyed receiving the presents. After all, which child would not?
As our house did not have a chimney, how Santa managed to climb into the house had me wondering for at least a couple of years before I realised that the real Santa in my home was a female – either my mom or my sister – who would quietly place the gift next to me.
Christmas in Australia was during Summer with no frosty cold winter or snowflakes but the fun was always there whenever – as students – we were invited to the homes of our church members. There were no Santas as we were too old for him but we loved the chatters and the jokes.
I remember one of our hosts, Mac Wulff whom I would teasingly address as “Mr Wolf” would crack a joke or two. One particularly year, he had us in stitches when he told us how much he loved the durians.
“It’s like eating a beautiful ice cream in the loo!” Oh, Mr Wolf – or dear Mac and Eula – we do miss you guys so much! They went home to be with the Lord some years ago.
Fast forward to 2024
Just a week or two before this year’s Christmas, the media went frenzy with the brouhaha created by Berry’s Cake House but an expatriate’s exploration of the Christmas decors at a handful of shopping malls in Kuala Lumpur soon stole the limelight.
Not to my surprise, she even marvelled at the different Christmas themes in these malls, claiming that they are not as elaborate as in her home country. Christmas decors in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong are probably the most elaborate where I am concerned.
Another interesting development to take me away from the Berry’s brouhaha this year is a video of a Christmas tree that a Muslim classmate of mine said he has at his home. His name has to be withheld just because to some people, a Christmas tree can be a taboo.
He is not even what some may consider as apostate but amidst all the madness that we see in the country, particularly in West Malaysia, his Christmas tree is a reminder to all Malaysians not to think that every Muslim thinks like the politicians. Having a Christmas tree in the home does not make him an apostate.
There are perhaps many such Muslim friends who think like him, just that they do not want to do it openly. It is after all their own privacy.
No religious significance in Christmas tradition
I told my dear Muslim brother, “I haven’t even put up my Christmas tree!”
That’s because Christmas has nothing to do with Santa, reindeers, snowflakes, gingerbread, Christmas bells and the Christmas trees. All these are just the creation of Westerners as part of their culture to celebrate the festive season in a big way. The commercial marketers also leveraged the festive seasons to sell their products.
Santa, for example, has a different twist to it. It has its origins in the story of an ordinary monk, St Nicholas, who lived in Patara, near Myra in modern-day Turkey. He was well-known for his acts of kindness, especially giving away his inherited wealth and helping the poor and the sick.
Gingerbread is probably the creation of people who made gingerbread to sell and poultry farmers breeding turkeys found the season to be the best time for the entire family to enjoy the bigger bird together.
And Christmas trees were just small pine trees that were chopped from the woods to bring home to decorate with lights and other decors. In Malaysia, where there is no snow, people use cotton to give a resemblance of a white Christmas.
For that reason, I find it amusing that bakeries like Berry’s have the audacity to bar their own customers from piping the ‘Merry Christmas’ greeting on their cakes prior to the cake house’s eventual apology for misinterpreting JAKIM’s (Department of Islamic Development Malaysia) directive in tandem with its halal certification.
It’s “Blessed Christmas” where I am concerned because Christmas is about God’s gift of joy and peace to all mankind – not a season to eat, drink, and be merry.
For me, Jesus is the reason for Christmas because His name given in the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 is “Immanu-El” which means ‘God with Us.’ That’s the true spirit of Christmas! – Dec 22, 2023
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.
Main pic credit: Spotlight Malaysia