Christ’s Mass or Christmas is celebrated as the birthday of Jesus Christ on the 25th of December. It is the day Christians renew their faith, pray for peace, give generously and commemorate God’s gift of Jesus to humankind.
Before the birth of Christ, ancient western cultures celebrated the Winter solstice on the longest night, which marked the beginning of warmer days and the rebirth of the sun. Christmas and some of its traditions may have originated from these earlier customs.
In Malaysia, Christmas begins early in December when the Christmas tree is decorated. Soon, homes begin to smell of goodies like pineapple tart, almond cookie, fruit cake and mince pie. Carol singers bring joy and cheer with their rendition of Christmas favourites in homes, hospitals and other public venues. On the day before Christmas, devil curry, roast meats and vegetable dishes are prepared. Some families attend the midnight mass on Christmas Eve, other attend church early Christmas morning dressed in their new best clothes. Different households have different traditions as to when presents are opened; whether on the eve, early in the morning or after Christmas lunch. It is the most anticipated event especially for children.
After lunch, families and friends visit each other and exchange gifts. Open houses are popular on Christmas day or the day after, on Boxing Day. The ‘box’ refers to a collection box where historically, donations were deposited into and distributed.
In Malaysia, the Christmas tree is taken down before January 1st for a fresh start to the new year.