089 The Last Part of the Gift

This is the song I promised. It's a familiar song, but with a bit of tweaking... I couldn't help but post it here, it is hilarious...my apologies if you're offended, but seriously, you will definitely smile...


You can only hear a 30 second clip, but it's good enough for now, until I figure out what is wrong with the embedding HTML.

088 The Final Christmas Entry

Today is the third day of Christmas, and it's time for the final gift. I saved the best for last as this is the gift of humour. These are a set of photos taken from Cameron Highlands. Amidst the beauty of this mountain resort, are some interesting sights that may tickle the funny bone. There's one last thing, apologies in advance, I really couldn't help but do it, you'll understand once you play the song at the end of the entry.

So THIS is how they water the plants in Cameron Highlands. No wonder they look so healthy.

I am still yet to figure out what the plastic bottle in the net is for. Good luck charm for the vegetables perhaps...

The locals really have redefined the meaning of "playing mahjong". Or maybe it is a form of training for the little kids. Scenario as follows:

Auntie: Ah boy ah, this is the "hong chong"... say "hong chong"....
Boy: Ho...Hon... Hong Chong!!!
Auntie: Clever boy. Now say "pak pan"....

Oh God...

This must be the vegetable version of the famous story "The Ugly Duckling". Once upon a time, there were a group of little cabbages, and there was a ugly purple one... I wonder what it's going to grow into...

There is no better advertisement for your ice cream stall than a bunch of people sitting next to your signboard enjoying your ice cream. I think the owner should pay them commission.

Self plucking strawberries...Hmm... I'd like to see the suicidal plants, at least the grower saves a lot of time, but it must really hurt to hear the plants scream...

That is one arch you do not want to walk under for your wedding, lest the bride's gown gets caught in the vine...

087 The Second Boxing Day Entry

This is the final part of the A - Z of Christmas, covering the backwaters region of the alphabet, S - Z, the toughest part of the project, I must say, but I did it, with a little help from a website which embarked on the same project. Presenting to you the final part of the A-Z of Christmas:

The A - Z of Christmas Part 3

Santa Claus – Santa Claus was not always the fat, jolly, bearded figure, wearing the red fur cap and coat. The legend of Santa Claus was a combination of the Nordic legend of Father Christmas, a man who left gifts in stockings, and the story of Saint Nicholas, a true 4th century saint who gave gifts to children on December 6. The Dutch (who called him Sinterklaas) brought the idea to America when they established New Amsterdam (New York). Thomas Nash, a Harper’s Weekly cartoonist combined with the depiction of Coca Cola illustrator, Haddon Sundblum, created the modern day version of Santa Claus, belt, beard, boots and all. One aspect did not change though all that, and it is the fact that Santa Claus gave gifts to children.

Tree – The Christmas tree, another endearing aspect of Christmas, is another tradition established during the Victorian era. Before Prince Albert brought the fir tree to England (see Queen Victoria), people in Europe have begun lighting candles and placing them on evergreen trees, such as fir and pine. Evergreens were meant to symbolize the eternal life of Jesus Christ who was born on Christmas day and resurrected on Easter Sunday, and later rose to Heaven. Evergreens are an apt choice since they do not shed their leaves in winter, which gives the impression that the live through every season without a change.

Umble pie – Also known as humble pie, this dish is a traditional Christmas dish usually prepared and eaten by the lower classes during the Christmas dinner. This dish gave rise to the expression “to eat humble pie”, which means to acknowledge one’s place in the society’s hierarchy, as it is only eaten by those in the low pecking order. One could say that humble pie is to the English as ratatouille is to the French and aglio olio is to the Italians.

Visiting – Christmas are usually family events, where the whole family come together for a day to exchange gifts, and generally have a good time. Of course, for those who afford the cost would throw Christmas parties for the neighbours and even the extended family, providing a chance for them to visit especially if they have not been around the house for quite some time. After all, Christmas is the time of giving, and there is certainly nothing better than giving others and yourself a great time.

Wassail – The wassail is uncommon outside Europe and America, and Asian Christmas celebrations do not include this aspect. Wassail, which comes from the Norse word vas heill, which means, “be well, and be in good health”, is the traditional Christmas toast and also the name of the bowl the toast is contained in. It is akin to the “yum seng” of Chinese parties.

Xmas - First, I must say, thank God there is a word beginning with X associated to Christmas. Xmas, the common abbreviation of the word Christmas, has an origin that many are unaware of. It is derived from the Greek letter “chi”, which, when written in Roman lettering, becomes X. “Chi” is the first letter in the Greek version of the word “Christ”, and hence Xmas is a shorten form of the word “Christ”mas.

Yuletide – One of the few words synonymous with Christmas, Yule was derived from the Old English word “geol”, which in turn came from the Old Norse word “jol”. Yule was the pagan celebration of the winter solstice, which falls just about the same time as Christmas. So, when many aspects of the winter celebration of the pagan celebration were converted into Christmas traditions, the word Yule naturally followed.

Zwarte Piet - Zwarte Piet is a black character from Dutch Christmas folklore, where he is St. Nicholas's helper. It is said that on December 5th, St Nicholas sails to the city of Amsterdam in a boat from Spain, accompanied by his servant, Zwarte Piet. Church bells ring as they come ashore. Dutch children are told that Zwarte Piet keeps a record of what they do in a big book. Good children will be given presents, which Zwarte Piet brings down the chimney, getting very black in the process.

086 The First Boxing Day Entry

The next part of the A-Z of Christmas is here… Enjoy!!!

The A –Z of Christmas Part 2

Kings – The Kings or the Three Wise Men visited Jesus carrying three gifts which were gold, frankincense and myrrh. Their namesand countries of origin are not known but some have speculated that they arrived from India, being astrologers who interpreted the coming of Jesus from the rise of what we call the Star of Bethlehem. In exchange for the three gifts, Mary gave them the swaddling clothes Jesus was born in. Some historians believe that the men were not of royal descent but merely farmers who saw the sign that was the Star.

Lights- Even long before there were light bulbs, lighting the house was popular among those who could afford to use candles. After Thomas Edison’s invention of the light bulb, an employee of Edison invented the stringed lights bulbs that we now know as the Christmas lights. Initially the cost of lighting up the house was quite high as it was dangerous and required an expert electrician, and was only undertaken by the rich. As time passed, a Spanish inventor improvised the stringed light bulbs making them more suitable to be hung on the tree.

Mistletoe – Christmas tradition dictates that people kiss under the mistletoe during Christmas. The history of the mistletoe is a long and interesting one. It was believed that the mistletoe wood was used to make the crucifixion cross, and hence it was cursed to remain forever as a parasite. The Druids of the Roman era believed that the mistletoe had mystical powers and hung them in their homes. This practice was initially banned in the Dark Ages as it was believed to be pagan. However, the tradition was revived in Victorian England, when people started hanging them in homes once again during Christmas.

North Pole – The North Pole is believed to be Santa’s home, according to the popular children’s legend. Well. The reason why it is chosen is not too hard to guess, it fits in with the popular imagery of the reindeer and the “Winter Wonderland” landscape. Of course, geographically, the true North Pole is in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, while the Magnetic North Pole lies somewhere in the Canadian Arctic. The place that is promoted to be Santa’s North Pole is a small village in the Finnish Lapland, where there really are reindeers and a lot of snow.

Ornaments- There are many types of ornaments that are usually placed on the Christmas tree, to beautify it, and they include round balls, angels, candy canes and of course, the famous star at the top of the tree. Ornaments were, at first, only made in Germany. They were hand-blown glass ornaments, and coveted for their beauty especially in England, making them family heirlooms. Japan was next to get involved in the ornament business, but during the World Wars, immense pressure led England and the US to commercially produce their own ornaments.

Pinata – The Pinata is atraditional Mexican Christmas game that has become famous (or infamous), for the many mishaps it causes. The game involves blindfolding a person with a stick, and then spinning him round and round. The objective of the game is for the blindfolded person to hit and break open the piñata, which is hung from the ceiling. The piñata is a colourful object, usually a seven –pointed star or an animal, filled with candy and sweets. The seven pointed star represents the seven deadly sins and breaking it open to reveal the rewards signifies the overcoming of the sins.

Queen Victoria – Queen Victoria, the longest reigning English monarch introduced and popularized the tradition of lighting the Christams tree during Christmas in England when Prince Albert brought back a tree for mainland Europe. She placed it in the palace courtyard and from then on the Christmas tree became a must for every Christmas. The Victorian era, which bears her name, was also responsible for introducing many aspects of modern Christmas, including Boxing Day, the mistletoe, the Christmas turkey and the Christmas card.

Reindeer – Santa’s reindeer have become an iconic symbol of Christmas, especially Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer, popularized by the Christmas carol of the same name. Reindeer are found in the wild only in Siberia and Lapland. The reason why there are chosen to be Santa’s pets… is simply because reindeer are the animal of burden in the tundra.

085 The Second Christmas Entry

This is the fourth gift for Christmas, a rather large one I must say, because it requires quite a bit of effort and research to prepare this one. In fact, this gift is arriving in three parts, the first on Christmas night, and the second and third on Boxing Day. This would be the second last Christmas gift for this season. I have only planned to give five, and that would be it.

The fourth gift is a little different from the rest, instead of a short piece; this one would be a little longer. As I have said before, I do not have a wealth of riches to share, but I do have a wealth of knowledge. This article(s) is titled “The A – Z of Christmas”, an interesting fact about an aspect of Christmas, one for every letter of the alphabet.

The A – Z of Christmas Part One

Advent – Advent refers to the period encompassing the four Sundays before Christmas. Originally a period of penitence and fasting, like Lent, Advent, like many other Christmas traditions, has been modernised. It involves the lighting of four candles, one for every Sunday approaching Christmas, each candle signifying the approach, or advent, of the day of Jesus’ birth. Related to Advent, is the Advent calendar, a calendar with numbered windows that are opened one by one, usually by children, as a countdown to Christmas.

Boxing Day – Boxing Day, celebrated on the 26th of December, has got nothing to do with the sport of the same name. It was named after the boxes in with gifts to the poor were giving in after the actual Christmas day. It was an English tradition for the rich to be charitable to the needy on this day, and food, fruits and presents were given to the poor, in boxes, as a Christmas donation.

Christmas Cards – It may or may not come as surprise to people that the idea of greeting cards for every celebration actually first started from Christmas. The 19th century English were the first to send Christmas greeting cards, and this tradition caught on, as the cards became a must for every celebration. The first known card was created and sold in 1843, by John Horsley, and ever since that day, this commercialized aspect of Christmas has spread worldwide, encompassing every known celebration, from birthdays to Chinese New Year.

Dickens, Charles – This English author, well known for his classics such as “Oliver Twist” and “Great Expectations”, wrote “The Christmas Carol”, a story that made “Scrooge” synonymous with parsimony. Many do not know that this story actually defined Christmas for the entire world. The merry-making, turkey, singing (from the title, in fact, Dickens coined the term “Christmas carol”) and all the joyous aspect of the season was invented by Dickens, and it simply became tradition for all. What a difference a book can make to how we view a celebration.

Epiphany – Those familiar with the carol “The 12 Days of Christmas”, may be mistaken in believing that the 12 days began with 13th December. The 12 days of Christmas begins on the 25th of December to the 5th of January. The 6th of January, known as the Epiphany, is the day the Magi visited Jesus, or the day Jesus was baptized, depending on who you ask.

Fir – Fir, along with other evergreens, have become an integral part of the Christmas tradition. Fir is used as the Christmas tree in some regions, and in others, a branch of fir is hung in the house. The first ornaments to be placed on the tree were recorded to be apples, and in another record, candles. A wrath of fir is used to hang and hold the Advent candles (see Advent).

Gifts - Toward the end of the 18th century the practice of giving gifts to family members became well established. Theologically, the feast day reminded Christians of God's gift of Jesus to humankind even as the coming of the Wise Men, or Magi, to Bethlehem suggested that Christmas was somehow related to giving gifts. The practice of giving gifts, which goes back to the 15th century, contributed to the view that Christmas was a secular holiday focused on family and friends. This was one reason why Puritans in Old and New England opposed the celebration of Christmas and in both England and America succeeded in banning its observance.

Holly – Holly is an ornamental plant that is used to decorate homes during Christmas, like the famous carol, “Deck the Halls”(…with boughs of holly). It is a tradition dating back to the Celtic tradition of hanging holly during the winter solstice. Holly is known to have healing properties and this could be one of the reasons why holly was chosen.

Icy – It is not overly surprising why Christmas is associated with snow and cold weather, and all that dreaming of white Christmases. This is, of course, a sign of Northern Hemisphere dominance, as people in the South, like Australians, celebrate Christmas in bikinis, swimming trunks and sunglasses. The date December 25th was set by approximation of the date of the winter solstice, by taking away three months from the established date of the spring equinox, March 25.

“Jingle Bells” – This is among the many famous Christmas carols sung during Christmas. James Pierpont wrote the song and the tune in 1857, for a church gathering. Strangely enough, this song was meant for a Thanksgiving celebration, rather than Christmas. It was so popular amongst the audience that he decided to sing the song for Christmas, and it became a Christmas carol since that day.

084 The First Christmas Entry

This is the Christmas morning entry, the third of the Christmas entries, and if you were following the series, you would be expecting Gift Number Three. It would be utterly preposterous for me to disappoint you, especially during Christmas, and, mark my words; I am taking this very seriously. Perhaps the gifts are a way to release all that feelings I have penned up inside, all the interesting thoughts I have about life that I wish to share. I have a weakness, and that weakness is that I express myself better in written words than in speech. It is also because I trust words to have more meaning than any material gift, after all, we assign words their meanings, and what better way than to use their meanings to give a meaningful gift.

I shan’t bore you with any more of these ramblings, and I won’t have to tell you my plans for Christmas…because this is it…what I’m doing for Christmas. Now, for the gift, but first a little intro...

The idea of giving gifts is not to impress the recipient with your ability to spend a huge some of money for him/her, or your respect for the tradition, or even a responsibility to your relatives. No, it is not all that. It is about spreading happiness to both the people you know and also to strangers. This third gift, titled “What is Happiness?” is another self-written piece, and here it is:

What is Happiness?

Happiness is…
- a lifelong pursuit
- following your heart’s wishes
- an appreciation of life and death
- a gift that is to be shared with others
- an item that no credit card or cash can purchase
- changing another person’s life for the better
- also changing your life for the better
- forgiveness to others’ weaknesses
- also forgiving yourself
- freedom from sin

…and lastly, happiness is the best Christmas gift of them all.

083 The Christmas Eve Entry

Today is the 24th of December, Christmas Eve, it looks like I'll be having a rather lonely Christmas this year, my family does not traditionally celebrate Christmas, and I usually take it upon myself to get into the Christmas mood. Also, I'm not going down to KL this year to my uncle's for Christmas, for the first time in a few years. I do remember vividly the last Christmas I spent alone, and it was rather depressing...All that aside, I am keeping myself happy by creating a series of Christmas gifts to keep myself busy, and to keep the Christmas spirit alive in my heart...

This second gift, is titled "Whatever the Weather", self-written, actually... self-thought, I haven't written it down until now. It was inspired by the my many thoughts of how my mood this Christmas will be affected by the weather, and this is it...

Whatever the Weather

If it is sunny, rejoice and enjoy the gift of light for Christmas;
If it is wet, let the rain wash the bad tidings and sins of the previous year;
If it is windy, embrace the Yuletide that the breeze has swept to you;
If it is cloudy, remember that the cloud with the silver lining is above you;
If it is snowing, celebrate for your dreams of a White Christmas are fulfilled;
If it is dry, enjoy the sun, eat, drink and be merry;
Whatever the weather, Christmas is a time of happiness;
and raindrops, snowflakes, or thunder can never change that spirit.

082 The Christmas Entries 1

It's only a few days left to Christmas, one of the most meaningful days of the year to me, and besides the short video I've given to my hostel mates, there are still many other things I would like to share with everyone. An update is in order, but I will leave that for later, for now we shall enjoy all that Christmas has to offer to us.

Presents have become material to many of us, and Christmas has become a time we spend our wealth to make someone's day and the coming year a memorable one. I personally do not have a wealth of money to splurge but I have something far deeper and meaningful than any little momento can do. I found this gift in the newspaper today, and as the author has consented to share these gifts with the public, I too will share the gift that she sought to spread. This piece, titled "The Best Gifts", is the first of my many presents this season...

The Best Gifts

To your enemy, forgiveness
To your opponent, tolerance
To a friend, your heart
To a customer, your service
To mankind, love
To every child, a good example
To yourself, respect
To God, yourself