As we approach the end of the year and the onset of the festive period once more, I have to admit I am looking forward to the fun and frolics more than I have done for a number of years now.
The past two-and-a-half years have seen a serious curtailment of personal freedoms – understandably so, of course – and as a result, Christmas and New Year celebrations have been diluted at best and non-existent at worst.
This leads to anticipation levels regarding this year’s frolics being at a higher level than in previous years.
Many years ago, when Santa Claus still used to visit Chez Nesbit back in Blighty, my dear old Year Four teacher stated that as far as she was concerned, the festivities began on the first day of December.
It is an adage I have lived by since, as I have steadfastly refused to do the slightest bit of shopping or other preparation before this cut-off date. This invariably leads to me being “taken by surprise” and thus being woefully lacking in both essentials and festive spirit.
Times are changing and as we embrace cultures and diversity more in the third decade of the third millennium, we become more understanding and sensitive to others, their beliefs and their ways of living. This leads, perhaps, to adjustments in the way we tend to celebrate the festive season.
For some, the time of year still holds significant religious meaning, while for others it is more of a time for relaxing and enjoying the festivities. In addition, consideration for those of different religions can sometimes result in adaptation in the way the season is marked altogether. An example of this can be seen in some quarters when the period is referred to as a “Holiday Season” rather than a “Christmas” one.
So, how do we here in Indonesia celebrate (if that is the correct word to use in the circumstances) this particular period and how do these activities and the such like compare with such goings-on back in England? Well, I have reached the point where I have actually spent more Christmases in Indonesia than I have in England, and I have to say that in many ways the differences are rather marked, but in other ways, there are abundant similarities.
Looking at the differences first, I suppose the most obvious one is with regard to the weather. In the UK, the festivities fall in the middle of winter, of course, and for me, that always determines the ambience of the period to a degree. For as much as I have made Indonesia my home over these past three decades or so, there is just something about being curled up on a cold dark December evening, listening to carols or watching Christmas-themed television shows that – for me at least – is always going to be missing here in Indonesia.
On the other side of the coin, similarities between the UK and Indonesia concerning festivity at this time of year include people’s feelings and communications with one another. I find that people’s attitudes and outlooks on life do seem to moderate, at least slightly, in these holiday periods and people, generally speaking, often lighten up and become just a little more caring towards one another.
It is an oft-voiced lament that we should not show compassion and empathy for our fellow brethren purely while we are enjoying ourselves once a year, but should look to do so on a more regular footing. While this is undoubtedly true, human nature being what it is, perhaps it is no surprise that we feel better indisposed to others at times when we are feeling good about ourselves and our lot in life.
Then there is the countdown to the festivities which remain part of their attraction, and for those who celebrate the season, similar attitudes tend to prevail universally regarding this matter. As a child, I would progressively grow in anticipation with every passing day, and while the magic does dilute as we get older, I guess, there is still that sense that we are heading into a special time of the year.
Parties do take place in both environments and can vary greatly depending on those involved and the locations. When I was at school, particularly at a primary level, each class had an unadulterated out-and-out Christmas party. These were the highlight of the academic year and consisted of eating too much sugar-based food and subsequently charging around at a million miles an hour while playing a variety of party games. More than one such party ended up rather messy, as I recall.
Anyway, moving swiftly on, I think. The office party in England was – and presumably still is – a big annual event. Here the format of the festivities could vary with a split between “going out for a meal” and the traditional “in-house party” being the norm. These do not seem to exist on anywhere near as big a scale here in Indonesia, but I presume they do happen (just that I do not get invited to any, I guess).
These office parties back in England were usually fun but also had the potential for embarrassment if one were to throw caution to the wind in the alcohol-consuming stakes. Again, not that much of an issue here in Indonesia.
No look at the festive period would be complete without a mention of the preparations in shops and malls. In both countries, the stocking of Christmas goods seems to get earlier every year. This, invariably, includes the piping in of Yuletide music. Who hasn’t been driven to the point of near insanity by the tone of “Jingle Bells” while attempting an early-November grocery run?
As noted before, these past few years have been tough on most of us and now as we attempt to get some sort of normality back into our lives, it is perhaps time to really kick back and enjoy this festive period. Take the opportunity to reflect on the past year, spend time with your loved ones if you can, recharge your batteries, and let’s make 2023 a year to remember!
Now, let me crank up my list of Christmas songs on YouTube!