It doesn’t have to be a Silent Night this Christmas

LIKE many other celebrations this year, Christmas too will be a low key affair due to the pandemic. However, the spirit of Christmas is very much present, with the hope that things will get back to normal next year.

$!Maria celebrating Christmas with her friends. – PICTURE COURTESY OF MARIA CAZALY

Christmas in London

Maria Cazaly, is a Malaysian-born nurse who now works and resides in London.

“I came to the UK to work in 1997 and never planned on staying. Meeting my husband soon changed all the best laid plans and the rest as they say, is history!”

Speaking about what makes Christmas special for her, Maria said: “From my childhood until today, the days leading to Christmas have always been as special as Christmas Day itself. I grew up participating and attending Nativity plays, Christmas carol services with my family and friends, and helping my mother with the meal preparations for the Christmas Day celebration.”

“The precious memories of the past have helped me make very similar memories with my husband and mother-in-law. Before the pandemic, my mother-in-law and I made a special trip to London to celebrate a traditional Christmas carol concert at the Royal Albert Hall. The Christmas season for our family has always been about spending time together as we live far apart.”

“This year, we are travelling on Christmas Eve to spend time with my mother-in-law and hopefully cook a traditional Christmas dinner. The day will start with meal preparations, then a long walk with our dog, a call to my parents and family in Malaysia, then sitting down to Christmas dinner at either 2pm or 3pm, depending on how long it takes for the roast to be ready!”

“For me, Christmas is about remembering the birth of Christ. Over the years, it has become a season of reflection and a reminder to me that it is also a time of sadness, loneliness and pain for many people. The pandemic has definitely reinforced the importance of spending quality time with loved ones. Presents are not compulsory!”

Keeping it simple

Roland Xavier’s home in USJ 11, Subang made the news several times for its elaborate Christmas decorations that drew in visitors.

He moved there 10 years ago and has been putting up lights for Christmas for almost 15 years, beginning with his old home in USJ 9.

“This year, we are not putting up the lights. Mainly, it is because of the pandemic. We feel that we have to do our part. A lot of people asked why we are not putting up the lights. We are just going to put our Christmas tree downstairs and that’s about it,” said Roland.

On what initially influenced him to put up his elaborate display of lights, Roland said: “What influenced me was the impact of the lights. I once travelled to a remote village that was in Shah Alam. One of the houses was lit up (for Deepavali celebrations) while the others weren’t. It made a huge difference. It conveys a certain joy.”

He pointed out that even though you don’t celebrate the same festivals as other people, but when you see them light up their homes for their own celebrations, it can’t help but make you feel happy.

Seeing the effect of decorative lights, Roland and his partners started off a business venture called The Joy Factory, involving disabled and underpriviledged people who work from home, assembling decorative light features that are perfect for any festival. The venture only started a couple of months ago.

A time to bond with family

For as long as Helen Sta Maria can remember, her family’s Christmas celebrations begin from Dec 20 with a Christmas party for approximately 40 underprivileged kids held at her parents home in Kg Pasir, Jalan Rasah in Seremban.

“On Dec 24, the whole family (used to be just seven of us 30 years ago, now the family has grown to 24, including 10 grandchildren) will attend Christmas mass at Visitation Church, followed by supper and sharing of gifts at my parents’ home. The night would go on until the wee hours of the morning. On Dec 25, we would host an open house at my parents’ home and on Dec 26, my brother Anderson would host an open house at his home in Rasah Kemayan. From Dec 27 to 30, we will pack the whole family, including pets, for a Christmas getaway at A’Famosa in Malacca. We do this every year!”

This year, some things will be different.

“Except for the children’s Christmas party (due to the numbers, we will just be giving gifts, minus the party) our open house will go on! However, to reduce the number of guests, there will be four open houses this year at each of my siblings’ homes, starting from Dec 25 to Dec 28. This is for crowd control.”

“When I was a child, it was always about the whole family getting together, dressing up in our best for midnight mass, opening presents and having good food!”

“In recent years, Christmas has become about being more like Jesus, spreading love and bringing hope to those who are lonely, lost and rejected.

“It’s about reaching out to those in need and letting them know that there is light in the midst of the darkness.”

$!Helen’s family off to Christmas mass. – PICTURE COURTESY OF HELEN STA MARIA