Just hear those sleigh bells jingle-ing, ring-ting tingle-ing, too 🎶
Do you hear those familiar tinkling chimes? The smell of oven-baked cookies? The Christmas carols playing in the background? Looking at the calendar, I can’t believe that it’s already November and Christmas is next month. Just like most people, Christmas is my favourite time of the year and it’s not just about the presents, it’s about celebrating Jesus whilst in the company of good food and people. It’s also the time where we sacrifice our #OOTD looks and rock on our ugly Christmas sweaters because it’s tradition. A tradition that I personally love so much.
Although Malaysia isn’t exactly the picturesque place to go for a White Christmas, we certainly have our way of making it absolutely festive with a kaleidoscope of lights, endless Christmas displays, and crazy shopping deals.
So what are really some of the traditions, foods and stories that we enjoy during this festive season? It’s time to look forward to the most wonderful time of the year.
Bells on bob-tail ring, making our spirits bright. What fun it is to ride and sing, a sleighing song tonight.
This a tradition that most Christians have grown up with and it has been passed down from generation to generation. Carolling is all about dancing or singing a song full of praise and joy. Although the tradition isn’t as popular here locally compared to overseas we still do make the time to travel from house to house to wish neighbours good cheer. Christmas is the season filled with happiness and besides opening your gifts, you just want to sing Jingle Bells at the top of your lungs whilst funny dancing.
You can not listen to a Christmas song and not want to sing and dance.
Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, of all the trees most lovely
Something about Christmas just makes you want to squeal like a little child in happiness. It’s a merry, joyful celebration and a day where nothing can go wrong. Plus, it is that time of the year where we get to put up the Christmas tree and decorate the entire house with twinkling lights, stars, reindeers and Santa.
Traditionally, an evergreen fir tree is used to celebrate the winter festivals but in Malaysia, the artificial ones would do. Besides it being a symbolic tradition among families, the Christmas tree is known as a sign of everlasting life with Jesus.
In case you didn’t know, people tend to use evergreen fir trees many years ago since they stay green all year long and had special meanings during the cold, dark times.
Typically, most would start decorating for Christmas in November, hanging up decorations in the colours of red and green.
Those who plan to have a real Christmas tree can check out Floristika Bangsar as they import from sustainable Xmas Tree farms in Europe in limited quantities. Noble Fir is the choice of trees that’s available.
So, the legend of Santa Claus, also known as Father Christmas is the very jolly old elf that brought presents for well-behaved children on the night of Christmas eve. But any kid can tell you the story of Santa Claus, though what about the reputed Saint Nicholas?
Nicholas! Confessor! Saint Nicholas has come home!
Saint Nicholas was a Bishop who lived in the fourth century in a place called Myra in Asia Minor (now called Turkey) and was honoured for enduring prosecution. After inheriting his parents’ fortune as a young boy, Saint Nicholas was known to give his vast fortune away by helping the poor and giving secret gifts to people who needed it.
Legend has it the reason why we hang up stockings to put presents in it started when he helped a poor man and three daughters. Saint Nicholas became aware of the family’s struggle and heard that the man was about to sell his daughters into slavery and decided to help them out. He would secretly toss bags of gold through a window into the house to provide dowries for the man’s daughters so they could find husbands. However, the bag fell into a stocking that had been hung by the fire to dry and so the man was determined to discover the person who had given him the money.
Despite his efforts at anonymity, Saint Nicholas was caught by the man when he was dropping in a bag of gold and begged the man to not tell anyone what he had done. Nonetheless, the news did get out and when anyone received a secret gift, they figured it came from him. And because of his kindness, he was made a Saint.
Milk and cookies
With the story of Santa Claus in mind, leaving out a cup of milk and a plate of cookies for Santa was an American tradition that could be as recent as the 20th century. Great Depression. Parents wanted to teach their children by encouraging them to share with others.
There’s also another story when the Pagans would celebrate Yuletide every year. And as part of the Norse mythology, people would leave out treats for Odin’s eight-legged mythical horse called Sleipner. In return, they hoped Odin would leave gifts for them.
Traditional Christmas food
Christmas turkey with cranberry sauce
Christmas is full of old traditions and with that said, any people would look forward to having this classic turkey dish on Christmas. Back then, the turkey was a much cheaper option and was easier to cook than beef. It was also because farmers needed the chickens for their eggs and the cows for their milk so instead of killing their livestock, they’d have turkey instead.
By stuffing the turkey with herbs, nuts, fruits and sometimes cheese, the turkey is packed with flavours that can feed an entire family.
Usually, if the turkey was overcooked the meat tend to get dry hence why the dish would usually be served with some cranberry sauce on the side. Mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables were also some of the side dishes that would be served.
The customary Christmas dessert is traditionally made as a bread pudding that is rich in fruits and flavours. It would usually be made by soaking stale bread in milk then adding in some brandy, eggs, nutmeg, raisins, candied citron and suet. Put into a mould, the dessert would be cooked in boiling water for hours. The Christmas pudding is decorated with skimmia rather than a holly.
PS. Originally it was filled with meat rather than fruits.
This sweet, creamy, butterscotch-coloured beverage may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it’s tradition and that’s what makes it Christmas, after all. It is said that the eggnog has roots in British aristocracy since during the winter, the wealthy would usually drink warm milk and egg beverages seasoned with pricey spices and expensive liquors. But once it was passed down to America, that’s when the eggnog was infused with alcohol. That said, it is settled that the beverage is made for this special occasion only.
It’s not just a cake with some fruit inside, it’s a cake that most of us dread receiving. But then again, I have to use the word ‘tradition’ because it is what it is. The mainstay of the cake is the dried fruit and that is usually soaked with rum together with some citrus zest, and candied ginger. Can’t call it a perfect cake but you should at least taste the richness of alcohol and dried fruit to know if it’s right.
Note: Personally, I really don’t like those red and green glacé cherries.
Just like the Christmas pudding, the mince pies used to be filled with meat such as lamb and were made in an oval shape. As time went by, the pies are now served in a round shape and can be eaten hot or cold. In the UK, instead of cookies, the kids would leave out some mince pies for Santa along with a glass of brandy.
So kids, do you think you have been good this year? Hopefully, Santa is able to still visit despite the pandemic or whatnot. Let’s spread some love and joy this festive season to everyone, surely we all need it. Merry Christmas!
Pictures by Olya Kobruse, Bicci di Lorenzo, The Spruce, Eat Drink Live Well, Particle, Getty Images, Craft Gin Club, Cottonbro, How Sweet Eats, Duc My, 1Zoom, Erasmus & Lew Robertson