My ebook: Journeys with the caterpillar

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Journeys with the caterpillar: Travelling through the islands of Flores
and Sumba, Indonesia
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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Christmas in East and South East Asia

Hail storms of Glitter, fake snow, floating cotton, a mesh of colored ribbons, frosted windows: at Christmas time, tropical Singapore feels more arctic than even Svalbard or Baffin Island. After all, the world’s tallest Christmas trees are often in Singapore. Many migratory birds from the Steppes, upon seeing this dense forest of artificial Christmas trees in South East Asia, take a u-turn to return to someplace normal. Native tropical animals also get confused with all this arctic imagery and hit the shopping malls with vengeance to protect them from this reverse climate change. To assure them, every building in the region put up large “for Sale” signs to bring back sanity into the whole environment. Even there store-owners force cashiers and store helpers to wear red caps with funny tails.
Unlike Europe where fervent Christianity is perceived to be anachronistic, Christianity in much of East and South East Asia is seen as the gateway to modernity. One just has to see the zeal of Korean missionaries, the most active after the American sorts. And in today’s world, Christmas is celebrated most vigorously in East and South East Asia by corporates within their office premises. These offices take up the appearance of Vatican, or some would argue that with their fake trees and mistletoes, colorful but fake gift-boxes, bells and other holy accessories, the offices appear more like crèches for grown-ups. Local office bosses ask their HR to mass up employees as they deliver their annual Sermon of the Mount wishing for world peace and annual bonuses. Colleagues relentlessly wish each other, their professional animosity against one another being shooed away by the Christmas carols that they were forced to sing during the company Christmas party.
These corporate offices, like every sane person worldwide, insist that Christmas has nothing to do with religion. After all, Jesus, if he did exist, was not even born that day. Christmas, for these corporate offices and retailers, is all about celebrating the birth of Isaac Newton, Humphrey Bogart, Dido, Annie Lennox and Karl Rove (all born on 25 December). As such, retailers have long wished that governments legislate for a minimum Christmas spending requirement for every household, irrespective of their religion. After all, isn’t it a sin to not take part in the unquestioning happiness all around as baby Jesus surrounded by angels VISA and MasterCard take the pains to bless humans? In Asia, they also can see angel JCB around.
At the same time, things at the slaughterhouse had never been so happy as millions of sheep, cows and chicken eagerly wait to come under the butcher’s blade, happy to have sacrificed their lives for this character called baby Jesus. And at midnight, an old man from Vatican, all decked up in glittering million dollar clothes, will again make the world a better place by saying two lines for the sake of world peace and recovery from financial crisis.


Anonymous said...

once again a very intelligent post i hate christmas it's freaking commercialized but that's part of the spirit isn't it? to give and receive gifts. but yes it's hilarious how localized it is in this part of the world. you should see philippine christmas - it's a totally different world!!

anyways i tagged you in my post - now you have to write 10 random things about yourself.

Anonymous said...

This is amazing. Your descriptions are vivid and powerful. They really make me see these people in a new and penetrating light! This makes me want to go to Little India. I love it! Keep up the good work.