A Sarawak Kind of Christmas
Remember the final scene from the old-time favourite 1990 movie, Home Alone, when Kevin rushes downstairs on Christmas morning only to find his family was gone? Fast forward to the end of the movie and after all the adventures, the heartfelt moment when his mother returned home and hugged him before being reconciled with the rest of his family.
Home with the family. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about? Like all festive seasons, Christmas is a time of joy and laughter, a favourite time of year for loved ones to gather and reminisce about the good old times while making a lot of new memories.
Malaysia is a melting pot of cultures and religions and as a result, Malaysians celebrate an array of festivities throughout the year. This includes the celebration of Christmas, especially in Sarawak where everyone gets into the festive spirit despite their ethnic or religious backgrounds.
However, due to the current pandemic, Christmas 2020 might be like no other before it. Normally, in the lead up to Christmas there are many events that revolve around large groups of people from all over the country getting together to celebrate.
This year that won’t happen. This year, some of the regular events usually celebrated with large gatherings during Christmas, won’t take place and these include:
- Christmas Mass
About 42.61% (2010 census) of Sarawakians are Christians. During the Christmas season, churches in Sarawak organise a number of activities leading up to Christmas, including prayers, house-to-house carolling sessions and assistance for the less fortunate. At Christmas, Christians all over Sarawak gather at churches to attend mass. This year however, a majority of churches will be closed and instead will conduct online mass. We’ve provided a list of the main Churches in the state, some of which are already conducting weekend live streaming/online masses. Nearer Christmas, it’s better to check their websites to get the latest updates on their Christmas services:
- Faith Methodist Church (SCAC)
- Christmas Parades
Christmas parades usually take place in major towns a few days before Christmas. In 2019, approximately 8,000 people marched along the main streets of Kuching and Sibu respectively and a record crowd of about 45,000 people attended the parade in Miri. During these parades, there are floats portraying Christmas scenes, marching bands playing festive tunes, carol singing and giving out of gifts to children, and indigenous communities dressed in traditional costumes. Unfortunately, these annual parades will not be held in Sarawak this year to ensure social distancing protocols are adhered to.
- Open Houses
In Sarawak, all festivals are celebrated together regardless of race or religion, and this is the same for the celebration of Christmas. The occasion is used as an opportunity to visit family, friends and neighbours. The locals call it ‘ngabang’, which is described as a goodwill visit to open houses, and this concept has been practised by Sarawakians over the years.
Although the Covid-19 pandemic has caused many travel and holiday plans to be disrupted, there are various ways to ensure Christmas continues to be celebrated. Here are several tips on how to make your 2020 Christmas celebration one to really cherish while still keeping your families, friends and communities safe and healthy:
- Dazzling Décor
Christmas has always been a time to do a little bit (or more!) of cleaning and decorating the home with colourful candles, Christmas lights and a Christmas tree. Decorating the house and tree together as a family, is the best way to spend quality time together and create beautiful memories, despite the situation.Why not craft something unique for this year’s Christmas tree? You can check out several websites to get some ideas for some dazzling décor – take this opportunity to do something different, it will be fun, especially when you do it together as a family! What about making your own Christmas cards and sending them to your families and friends? It is always a lovely feeling to receive a card during the festive season. Sending one out will make you feel good too. Try it.
Decorating the Christmas tree is always a fun family affair in Sarawak.
Photo credit: https://sarawakheritage.wordpress.com/festivals/christmas/
- Shop Online
While it is hard to beat the feeling of window shopping or going from one store to another to purchase gifts for the festive season, shopping online is the best solution in today’s environment – at the click of a mouse, in the bat of an eye, in a fraction of a second… you get what I mean. Not only will you be avoiding long queues, you are able to sit comfortably in your pyjamas browsing a variety of stores – comparing prices, and reading customer reviews – all these while sipping a hot cup of coffee!
Hassle-free online shopping for a unique Christmas in Sarawak.
Photo credit: https://elektroeshop.com/advantages-of-online-christmas-shopping/
- Cook and Bake Away
It is time to dust off your cookbooks and dig out some awesome recipes. A traditional Christmas feast in Sarawak is where there is a variety of authentic and delicious local dishes such as ‘Laksa Sarawak’, ‘Ayam Pansuh’, ‘Lemang’ and an assortment (yes, not just one!) of ‘Kek Lapis Sarawak’. Did you know that the ‘Kek Lapis Sarawak’ was featured on the Great British Bake-Off TV programme?
What did we tell you about the Kek Lapis Sarawak? Check out the variety!
Why don’t you try your hand with some Christmassy bakes? Go all out and let your creative juices flow. Bake and decorate some Christmas cookies and share them (or not!) with your loved ones.
- Online Christmas Dinner
Set a time with your families and friends to have a virtual dinner together. The online session can even begin from the time you start preparing the food right up to cooking the dishes together in your respective kitchens, and finally having a wonderful dinner together, from wherever you are in the world. The best part is you still get to dress up for the occasion!
- Family Time – Movie Night, Games Galore and Storytime
Now that you have everyone ‘together’ at home, to liven the Christmas atmosphere, watch some of the best Christmas movies of all time such as ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’, ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’, and of course, ‘Home Alone’.If you are up for some indoor fun and games, maybe you can play a round of Charades, Christmas Trivia or a Pictionary relay. As an alternative to this, gather your family around and read a Christmas story together. There are some great classics for you to select from; my personal favourite would be Charles Dicken’s ‘A Christmas Carol’. Or what about playing online family games like Among Us?
- Christmas Carolling
Christmas will never be the same if you don’t hear the beautiful melodies of ‘Silent Night’, ‘Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ and undoubtedly the well-known ‘We Wish you a Merry Christmas’ to invoke the spirit of Christmas and to spread some cheer around your home, so why don’t you organise a carolling session with your loved ones? This will be a fantastic bonding time with them, and we guarantee that it will create beautiful memories for everyone. Alternatively, take a leaf out of the Italian book and have a village carolling session from your doorstep or balcony!
- Christmas in an Iban Longhouse
Christmas is always a fun and joyous occasion at the longhouses because the older folks look forward to meeting their family members who have returned home from the cities. Longhouses organise all sorts of activities, for example singing Christmas carols, sports matches, tele-match games, treasure hunts, children’s beauty pageants, and also choir, theatre and Christmas decoration competitions. There will be a lot of karaoke singing too. This year, not everyone will be able to return to the longhouse but that doesn’t mean families can’t spend Christmas doing things together, they just might be virtual this year.
The ambiance of Christmas in an Orang Ulu longhouse in Sarawak.
Photo credit: http://anakkenyah.blogspot.com/2015/12/bagaimanakah-sambutan-hari-natal-di.html
Without doubt, this year will be a very different kind of Christmas due to the Covid-19 pandemic. There may not be any Christmas parades or Christmas Mass at churches this year, and there might not even be crowds of people filling up the decorated streets and malls. Christmas is a family affair where we get to spend quality time with loved ones in the comfort of our own homes so with fewer external distractions, we can still make this a special Christmas for the right reasons while sticking to the true spirit of the season – being with family which, at the end of the day, is what matters most.
Caption: Love, unity and togetherness in a Sarawakian home during Christmas.
Photo credit: https://www.theborneopost.com/2016/12/25/home-for-christmas-after-raya-over-yonder/
Without the Christmas parades, shopping or open houses, how do you plan to celebrate Christmas with your loved ones this year? Do you have something special in mind? Do share them on STB’s social media, we would love to hear from you!
Effective 4 October 2020, Malaysians and foreign citizens need to apply for permission to enter Sarawak and submit an e-health declaration form at least 12 hours before entry. 14-days at a quarantine centre is mandatory and Covid-19 tests will be done on the 2nd and 10th day (all costs are self-borne). Different rules apply for Sarawakians returning home. Check out https://www.facebook.com/SarawakDisasterInfo/for further updates.