3rd January 1999
This week our cover girl is model Emmanuelle whose dress was from Inspirations. Her hair and make-up were by Purnima Abeyratne. Emmanuelle was photographed by Anuruddha Medawattegedera
I just thought that I'd let you know that I am definitely not enjoying Christmas. First, let's get this straight. Now that we've done that, there's something I've got to tell you – I don't think you exist, but since nobody else will listen to my ravings you will have to do. Doesn't it just grab you right there to see so many people happy about the season? Well maybe you don't feel that way. Maybe I'm just plain crotchety because I've been in bed for the past few days trying to get over the flu. It's really getting me down. Between family gatherings and the joys of mucous, I'm finding it very difficult to get myself into the Christmas spirit.
When I was growing up I was told that Christmas was a day of the year that celebrates all that is good in humanity. Now that I am a little older and am able to figure things out for myself, I realise that there are three things wrong with that theory. 1.Christmas is not about celebrating the good of anything – except for maybe the fact that it's a very good time of the year to blow your money on things you don't need. 2. There is no good in humanity to celebrate. 3. Christmas is not a "day of the year." It is rather an event, very much like a large stock clearance sale, beginning somewhere in early November and going on into a good part of January.
It seems as if everything's on sale at Christmas time. Things are always cheaper towards the end of the year with all those Christmas and year-end sales. But then again in other parts of the year you don't need to buy so many things, 'cos everyone who knows you doesn't visit you in the space of a week, and those who do, don't expect to take something home. Actually these days, it seems like the only valid excuse for not being in the Christmas spirit is that you can't afford it. And really, since it's the thought that counts during this time, the only people who shouldn't be able to afford it are all those beggars you see just outside the decorated Christmas shops. But as long as you ignore them, everything's fine.
Like it or not, these days Christmas means having to do loads of shopping, be it to buy a gift for someone special or to buy a Christmas card for someone whose name is in your diary but you can't really remember why. Many shops make more during this season than they do during the rest of the year. So they all try to outdo each other in order to attract more customers. They decorate themselves with the traditional banners bearing Christmas tidings of great joy (SALE!!) and tons of Christmas lights. I'm not sure how many more customers they are bringing in, but I suspect that they are enticing pilots enroute from Cape Town to Adelaide to land somewhere in downtown Bambalapitiya.
The season also means that it is time to give gifts – again. I cringe at the thought of having to spend a chunk of my budget on buying gifts for people who will give me stuff that I could never use in return. But I suppose I have to – all in the Christmas spirit. So to me Christmas means digging up all those ghosts of Christmases past. I figure why spend money buying gifts, when I already have a whole treasure trove of stuff that is perfect for gift giving (hey, someone gave them to me) just lying around doing nothing? Anyway, giving those monstrosities away brings me at least untold satisfaction.
Can you imagine what Christmas would be like in the future? I suppose it would be more sophisticated and commercialised. Although some might argue that it would be virtually impossible to make it a lot more commercialised, I feel that increased sophistication would make things a little bit easier for people. I'm glad about that for one reason at least. Hopefully that would mean that natural Christmas trees around the world would be replaced by plastic ones. I'm not being sarcastic here. I'm all for plastic trees. Why? Because it means that a good tree somewhere won't be cut down to adorn a living room for a week and then be thrown away. Besides, plastic trees would last for literally hundreds of years so the cost won't recur every year. At the ridiculously high prices they are currently being sold at, I think people should jump at the chance. Look at the alternative – at the current prices, in a few years a majority of people won't be able to afford much more than a "Pol attha."
So you see Santa, I've had a lousy Christmas. Cynicism has got the better of me and the flu isn't helping. I suppose the only thing that could possibly restore my faith in Christmas is a Ferrari. You could park it out front. I strongly advise against any chimney tactics because as a matter of principle that would mean that I would have to shoot you.
It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas.... oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it: overspending.... the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma - the gifts given in desperation because you couldn't think of anything else.
Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way.
Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended; and shortly before Christmas, there was a non league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church, mostly black. These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes. As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler's ears. It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford. Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn't acknowledge defeat.
Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, "I wish just one of them could have won," he said ."They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them."
Mike loved kids - all kids - and he knew them, having coached little league football, baseball and lacrosse. That's when the idea for his present came. That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes ad sent them anonymously to the inner city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I have done and that this was his gift from me. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years. For each Christmas, I followed the tradition one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on.
The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents.
As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure. The story doesn't end there.
You see, we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning, it was joined by three more.
Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing around the tree with wide-eyed anticipation watching as their fathers take down the envelope. Mike's spirit, like the Christmas spirit, will always be with us.
May we all remember Each Other, and their interpretation of the reason for the season.