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The joy of Christmas: Celebrating the magic

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There’s a joyful sound coming from DB Plaza and it’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas, writes Trisha Hughes. Why be a Grinch when there’s so much fun to be had?

For me, there is nothing quite as exciting as Christmas. Every year, I look forward to the lighting of candles and I love watching the sparkle of ornaments and lights as they shimmer and dance in the reflection of mall windows. Then there’s the buzz of Christmas shoppers with bloated, overstuffed bags and the happy sound of children’s laughter as they tear open their gifts.

I love the smell of roasting ham, turkey and aromatic puddings wafting through my home and I may be the only one who never gets tired of hearing those Christmas songs about dashing through the snow on onehorse open sleighs. Thankfully the weather in Hong Kong is not warm enough to worry Rudolph.

Why be a Grinch?

On the whole, I’m generally well behaved when it comes to the December spend but sometimes the thought of treating friends and family overwhelms me and I just can’t help myself. I am definitely not the Grinch, that furry recluse living in scorn and seclusion on a cliff overlooking the cheerful community of Whoville. For me, Christmas is a time for feasting and merrymaking and I particularly approve of the lively, boozy part of the celebration.

Christmas is a great time to make family memories from decorating the tree together, sending cards to friends, hanging stockings, attending carol services and don’t forget decking the halls with boughs of holly. But having said all of that, our stress levels always go up a notch, as does our credit card bill.

There’s the extra grocery shopping to think about and presents for the family, not to mention those extra ‘spare’ presents to have in readiness in case an unexpected ‘someone’ turns up with a present for you. And then there’s finding the time for the cooking and the gift-wrapping late at night when the family are fast asleep in their beds. In the chaos, it’s very easy to lose the true meaning of Christmas.

DB’s inclusionary approach

It has long been my dream to live in a world where everyone celebrates Christmas (and all the other major religious festivals for that matter) side by side, regardless of their personal faith or affiliation. And this happens in DB – it really does.

In December, just about everyone heads to Discovery Bay International School to enjoy the Carols on the Pitch, and there’s always a multi-faith audience watching the Nativity in the Plaza, just as there is for the lighting of the Menorah during Chanukah (the Jewish Festival of Lights), a little earlier in the month.

It’s certain that DB’s multi-cultural make-up lends itself to this kind of inclusionary approach to religious celebrations, and perhaps never more so than at Christmas. People from Sydney to Timbuktu celebrate Christmas after all (albeit in their own ways), and in DB we can see this at first hand at our neighbours’ homes.

A truly international festival, Christmas is rooted in a rich combination of Christian and Pagan traditions, folklore and conflicting names. We have Père Noël, St Nicolas, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas and Santa Claus, all names for the same jolly, overweight gentleman in the red suit. And while most of us celebrate Christmas on December 25, in Russia, Christmas is celebrated between December 31 and January 10 and a porridge called kutia or sochivo, is eaten from a common bowl. Some families like to throw a spoonful up on the ceiling and if it sticks, it’s meant to be good luck.

In the Czech Republic, people fast during Christmas Eve in the hope they will have a vision of ‘the golden pig’ on the wall before dinner, again a sign of good luck. In Australia, we just hope we don’t get a raw prawn from the sizzling barbeque.

Would you ban the fun?

Despite the way it can bring people together, naysayers across the globe have long had it in for Christmas. You don’t have to be a history buff to appreciate that the idea of banning all the festive fun is not new.

In England, in 1649, making himself very unpopular at the time, Oliver Cromwell relieved King Charles I of his head then banned the Christmas activities along with eating, drinking and being merry. Decorating the house, carol singing and even holly were banned, regarded as a pagan part of the Druid’s Winter Solstice Festival. You were especially not allowed to sing the carol God Rest you Merry Gentlemen since the greeting actually meant ‘continue to be joyful and merry’. Happily, the festival returned once more with a bang with the restoration of the Merry Monarch, Charles II, when he arrived on the scene declaring that having fun was back in favour again.

Recent times, however, see us close to coming full circle. In a lot of countries whenever Christmas arrives on our doorstep, along with the fuzzy red and white Santa hats and candy canes, anger surfaces.

There has, for instance, been a lot of conflict in recent years between varying religious groups regarding Christmas greetings. As a result, we’ve modified our greetings with some favouring ‘Happy Holidays,’ instead of the traditional ‘Merry Christmas.’ There is even talk about Santa’s greeting of ‘Ho ho ho’ being (phonetically) inappropriate.

As for me, to avoid stepping on anyone’s toes, I now choose to say, ‘May the God of your choice bless you’.

A time for giving 

Along with the religious controversies, there is also a great deal of concern over the commercialisation of Christmas and the immense spending that it involves. Our children are no longer happy with the prospect of an orange and some walnuts in the hand-knitted stocking as were children during the Great Depression in the 1930s. But how can we expect them to be?

These days, department stores start their advertising well in advance, giving rise to our cynicism as Christmas approaches. Thankfully, most of us are not as naïve as these stores think.

We never forget that the true spirit of Christmas is about giving without a thought of receiving. It’s about the happiness we see in our children’s faces when they wake up to find their stockings at the end of their beds. It’s about forgetting yourself and finding time for others. It’s about discarding the meaningless and emphasising the true values of life.

For most of us, Christmas isn’t just a day. It’s a frame of mind.

Thank goodness in Hong Kong, we seem to be free of the politically correct influences that try to spoil the fun for us all, children and adults alike. You only have to look at the brightly decorated malls and the local shops decorated with paper lanterns and strings of lights to know that the Chinese love everything Christmas.

I know it’s not all about the gift side but for me, seeing joy on children’s faces is well worth waiting for every year. It reminds me of how lucky I am to live in this beautiful country and have food, shelter and family; be able to see, touch and hold my loved ones; and to have the memories of precious ones who once walked by my side and loved me.

Merry Christmas everyone. May the God of your choice bless you. And may you never be too grown-up to search the skies on Christmas Eve.

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