The tree in the lobby of the Shangri-La is beautifully lit and so tall it almost brushes the roof. Around it are scattered wrapping paper and presents on a bed of snow. And a milk-white polar bear nuzzles her cub much to the delight of tourists who crowd around the tableau to pose for pictures. 

You can tell Christmas had come to Singapore.  

And they really take it over the top here. The Christmas music is relentless and unending, cheerful carols ho-ho-ho’ing everywhere you go. Thankfully, I like its sound, but I can understand how its omnipresence might drive some people around the bend. And if you’ve seen one Santa, you’ve seen a mall. 

Orchard Road at night is spectacular, all two kilometres of its length brightly lighted up, a strutting visual phantasmagoria that’s flaunted for the gawking visitor. The shopping complexes, meanwhile, strive to outdo one another in their own visual displays.

It’s been like this since early December although only 18% of the republic is Christian. But it makes for good tourism. 

We return home tomorrow. Unless, you hang out in Pavilion a lot, Christmas in Kuala Lumpur is decidedly more muted. Indeed, growing up in a Hindu family in Seremban, I didn’t know anything about Christmas beyond the fact that it was a holiday and my father didn’t have to go to work.

It all changed when I met Rebecca. But it only came home to me when Raisa came along. You only understand the “joy of giving” business when you appreciate the happiness a child feels upon receiving something from Santa. 

I liked it that Raisa believed and I loved if when she oh-so-seriously wrote to Santa requesting stuff. Nor did she ever ask for very expensive things, she was always pretty considerate. I have since discovered that there are three distinct periods in a child’s life: when you believe in Santa, when you don’t believe in Santa and when you are Santa. 

The bubble burst when she was eight. Her cousin Emmanuel told her there was no such thing as Santa. He was feeling particularly aggrieved because Father Leonard, then of Jesus Caritas Church, had pooh-poohed his belief in the fat guy in the red suit. Emmanuel just wanted to pass on his disillusion, but I didn’t appreciate it. 

This will mark the first time that Raisa will not spend the holidays with us. She will, instead, spend it with her in-laws in Austria where it is truly beautiful and like all the movie clichés because I have the seen the pictures she sends: the house lights aglow amid the snow falling outside on to a landscape shrouded in white.  

But we return tomorrow, and I know Rebecca will bake her pineapple tarts as soon as she gets home and although I am not crazy about them, I am crazy about its idea and the smell of the fruity jam that will pervade the whole house.

That’s the smell of the season right there. Its very notion cheers me up. Throw in a beer, my wife supervising children opening 

presents, laughter and my cup runneth over…

…Merry Christmas everyone. 🎄🎅🏽