Like most Asians who read, I’ve been brought up on Blyton, Dahl, Dickens, P.G. Wodehouse, and Agatha Christie, and all these authors have something or the other to say about Christmas. Snow, Santa Claus, Gifts, Christmas trees and so on. And each year the list of Christmas novels and movies grows longer.
Which is why, for someone like me who’s never seen snow and lives in a part of the world where there is no winter, let alone snow, Christmas leaves a slightly bitter taste in the mouth. Especially when I see Singaporean children get soggy in front of a ‘snow machine’ at a mall, spewing out soap lather. My family does not celebrate Christmas, but I find something lovely about its essential spirit of giving, good cheer, prayer and introspection.
What I see around me, however, is relentless commercialization, harried shoppers, with none of the warmth associated with the spirit of Christmas, or even the iconic Saint Nicholas (the Santa Claus Coke created through its advertisements in the 1930s in the US). I’m quite sure all these feature in colder countries as well, but at least folks there have some sort of consolation in the snowfall, warm drinks, cosy conversations by the fireside, and holiday meals. Cold may be torture, but it helps you appreciate warmth.
In the tropics, Christmas songs blare in malls, at hotels, restaurants, but as I write this, it just stopped raining in Singapore, and the sun is out, making people sweat in the hot, humid weather. Christmas trees everywhere on Orchard Road, but of course all are plastic, metal, gaudy decorations, shiny-sparkles at night. None of them smell like real Christmas trees must smell…
What I long for is the essence of Christmas, I suppose, or maybe a Secret Santa who walks the streets in a joyous act of giving, giving to those who really need the cheer.
In my list of things to do before I die is to have a White Christmas, sometime, someplace.
In the meanwhile, I’ll settle for less stress, strife and showing-off and a little more of giving, smiles, cheer, sharing, family-time, a little more kindness, love.
And I’ll probably read a Christmas novel or two, or even go back to the long-winded “A Christmas Carol” for lines like these: “I don’t know what to do!” cried Scrooge, laughing and crying in the same breath; and making a perfect Laocoön of himself with his stockings. “I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a school-boy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to every-body! A happy New Year to all the world! Hallo here! Whoop! Hallo!”