Friday, December 23, 2011

A Very Asian Christmas

I'm back in Texas for a visit home right now, and boy, does it feel good. I've traded shorts and tees for pants and jackets. I found it a little difficult to get into the holiday spirit in Penang where, located so near to the equator, the daylight hours are still long, and the weather is hot. We drove around my childhood Houston neighborhood today looking at Christmas lights, something that we didn't really see in Penang. Strings of lights are sold there, but they're put up to celebrate Hari Raya (End of Ramadan) and Diwali (Hindu Festival of Lights).

Christmas is a public holiday in Malaysia, but it ranks far below Chinese New Year and all the Muslim and Indian holidays. It's actually been kind of nice to not have the commercial aspects of Christmas in my face all the time, allowing me to dial back the craziness. No TV shows or magazines enticed me to dazzle everyone with cooking feasts or transform my home into a Winter Wonderland.  Normally, I spend at least 2 days decorating the house, but in Penang, it took me all of an hour to set up the small tree and put out the few Christmas items we shipped over.

My kids were at somewhat of a loss when trying to figure out what to put on their lists for Santa since we've had zero toy catalogs in the mail or commercials on TV.  (Don't worry. They dug deep and were able to come up with items for their wish list.) LEGOs cost more than double what they do in the USA, by the way. Not surprisingly, American Girl dolls are completely absent.

The Christmas spirit isn't totally lacking in Penang. At the expat grocery store, there were a few displays of Christmas decor and foods. It actually reminded me of World Market in America with their selection of German stollens, Italian panettones, and British mince pies. The malls do deck the halls, but Santa doesn't hang out there waiting to greet children dressed in their holiday finery.

Kuala Lumpur's Suria Mall

An American friend hosted an ornament-making afternoon for the young'uns followed by a dinner of spaghetti and meatballs. I managed to put together a cookie decorating party. What I could typically accomplish with one trip to Michael's took me an entire school day of driving to nine stores looking for sprinkles plus pipe cleaners, stick-on googly eyes and red crystals or pompoms to make Rudolf the Reindeer candy canes. Imagine pantomiming "googly eyes" to a saleslady who isn't fluent in English. She shook her head and sent me away, probably thinking that I was crazy.

Hubby's company had a potluck and gift exchange, complete with caroling. My son's middle school teacher even hosted a field trip to her house so the kids could decorate cupcakes and share gifts in a homey environment. My daughter's class made ornaments encouraging everyone to "Remember the reason for the season." So true!

Flying to Texas, we stopped in Hong Kong and Los Angeles where we witnessed some airport merriment. Hong Kong had a giant Christmas tree plus a Gingerbread man to greet you. At LAX, we saw Santa Claus walking through the terminal followed by the Grinch disguised as Santa.

Two hottie helpers at the Hong Kong airport

Anyways, I got my wish — to be home for Christmas.

Merry Christmas Y'all!

Selamat Hari Krismas!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Michelle! I hope you had a wonderful time being home for the holidays. I can totally relate to your post. While Singapore is decorated to the hilt, it really doesn't feel like Christmas to me either. Our boys had very short lists this year and we kept things small. Probably for the best but I did miss some of our usual traditions. Perhaps we'll head home next year too.


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