Christmas has always been a special season for me. My mom used to buy Christmas gifts all year and squirrel them away. Each year she selected one gift to be the gift. It was for only one of us, but we were all excited about what that gift would be and whose it would be. We woke up Christmas morning with a tree that was decorated over night and surrounded by gifts. We took turns opening the gifts one at a time so everyone could enjoy the thrill of seeing what each one got. Then the moment would come for the gift to be given and opened. It was always perfect! We all celebrated!
Christmas was about giving. We always found some way to make someone less fortunate than us happy too. A few years, we went to an orphanage and brought Jean home to share our Christmas. We each bought her a gift from our allowance and we tried to make her feel like a queen for the day. Some years we bought gifts, wrapped them, and took them to some family who lived in the poor part of our community. We always took food, as well as gifts.
Most of all, I remember the Advent Wreath and how the story of the first Christmas came alive to us little by little through the month before Christmas.
When we first came to Malaysia in the early ’80s, there was not much mention of Christmas outside of the churches and homes of the Christians. We didn’t expect it to be celebrated much since the majority of the population were not Christians.
Over the years we’ve watched with sadness the move in America away from Christmas. It became politically correct to say, “Happy Holidays,” instead of “Merry Christmas.” After all, we were told, there are other holidays around this time and we shouldn’t make anyone feel bad. There is Hanuka and even the new holiday, Kwanza. But then, to avoid all the religions, why not call it, “Winter Holiday.”
It made me sad, but then, I’m not sure anyone outside the Christian community actually understands what we are celebrating. So I was a little sad, but not surprised.
So when were moved back to Malaysia in 2005, we were really surprised to hear Christmas carols, not just winter holiday songs, being played over the P.A. in a major department store! We turned a corner and there it was! A huge section of the store was filled with trees and all kinds of Christmas decorations and music! It was like going back to my childhood memories of the stores before Christmas.
We have noticed over our recent years here that everyone celebrates all the holidays. Of course we don’t all understand all about each of the holidays, but we all greet each other with the appropriate greeting of the season. Rarely during the weeks before Christmas do the clerks neglect to say, “Merry Christmas” to us. Muslims, Buddhists, free-thinkers, and atheists seem to have no trouble reminding us of our holiday and receiving our greeting in return. We don’t expect them to convert and they aren’t afraid of offending.
But this year, I’ve been surprised again!
The fourth largest mall in the world has chosen for its theme, “It’s Christmas. . .Believe!”
Of course, it doesn’t tell us what to believe. But I think if the same theme were used by any mall in America, they would be overwhelmed by law suits from those who think they should be the ones to tell us what we are allowed to believe.
I am happy to be celebrating Christmas where I don’t have to be afraid to say, “Merry Christmas!”
P.S. Preparing this post, I researched the largest malls in the world. See: The 25 Largest Malls in the World. Be prepared for a surprise!