Saturday, January 5, 2008


Someone in one of the online communities I belong to started a forum where we had to list our favourite thing(s) about Christmas. The seemingly simple question had me stumped. I could not think of a single thing to contribute to the list, and I was not amused. In fact I was rather annoyed and disappointed at myself…had I become so hardened that the simple joys of Christmas had ceased to bring out any reaction from me?

I realised that I was appalled at the amount of money people blew away on Christmas shopping sprees, the shops and markets so obscenely overcrowded that your elbows became lethal weapons used to shove people out of the way to get to the items you wanted. Here was a demonstration of the well-known theory of Darwin’s survival of the fittest…and since I am not the fit, neither physically nor economically, I eschewed going to the shopping centres and cocooned myself in the warmth of the house. The thought of dragging myself out of the bed to participate in the church’s Christmas feast nearly drove me crazy, especially when the words of my animal rights activist friend (who relentlessly hammered home the plight of animals during our festivities) kept ringing in my ears. And, since I had been too lazy and broke to go shopping, I didn’t have anything to wear…after all, I’m still a girl!

In short, I was becoming a regular Ebenezer Scrooge, which, when I think about it, is not that weird. In one of the bizarre coincidences that life hands out, I had been given a hard-bound foreign edition of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol when I was in class two by my teacher as a prize for being the cleanest student in class. She bought it out of her own pocket, and with that one gesture, drove me into the wonderful world of books, converting me into a bespectacled bookworm for life. Ah, what a good teacher can do to shape your life! But that’s another story. The point is, I acted and felt like that Scrooge guy, and just stopped short of saying, “Bah! Hambug!”

It wasn’t always like that when I was younger. Santa Claus (or Christmas Father, as we called him) was a much loved and anticipated visitor. My sisters and I would literally hop with excitement on Christmas Eve, trying to sleep as early as possible so that we would wake early on Christmas morning and dive into the bags that we had hung, seeking the treasures and squealing with excitement.

One thing that I will forever associate with Christmas is the Boney M Christmas songs, not so much because I like them, but because they were played incessantly by the shop downstairs, which sold stereos and loudspeakers and the whole paraphernalia. By December 1, they would start playing the Boney M record, and I swear I am not exaggerating, they played the album over and over again the entire day, everyday, till Christmas. Depending on what mood we were in, it either set our teeth on edge or made us feel upbeat and Christmassy. Anyhow, now it is too deeply ingrained in my memory to be ever uprooted. Of course, Christmas also meant mom’s cakes and pot roast (thankfully, those smells are still with us), new clothes and midnight services in church when we got a little older.

Well, to get back to my “How I Spent Christmas” essay, the magic of Christmas finally did visit me, even if a little late. On an impulse, we decided to go for a quick drive around the city and although I cannot honestly recall anything that particularly touched me, I suddenly realised I shouldn’t be wasting time thinking about what was wrong with how we celebrated Christmas, or I would be engulfed in wave upon wave of disappointment. Rather, I should meditate upon why this particular day is celebrated, which, when I did, miraculously threw the whole night in a different light, a warm, tender glow that enveloped me, reminding me that I was in good health, that my family and friends were around, warts and all, and that is was good to share this night with people you love and who love you back. Peace on earth. It starts with you.

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