Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas Carols.

SO what do you exactly have in mind when the traditional Christmas caroling gets mentioned? A group of friendly looking carolers, dressed warmly with cute little earmuffs, thick gloves and home-knitted sweaters, crunching the snow beneath their thick boots, as they knock on your door, before belting out glorious and wondrous all-time favorite carols compiled by themselves, without the help of any instruments, at your doorsteps, as they maintain their composure at the master of the house while singing from their books, bringing a smile to every member of the family, while withstanding the chill of the snow? Or maybe just a simple carol group consisting of a soprano, alto, tenor and bass, waltzing the streets and malls under multiple layers of winter clothing, bearing the Christmas cheer in the songs they sing, spreading the joy of Christmas to everyone they meet or greet? Sure, I do have that in mind.

Well, the closest thing we get here to snow is the ferocious wind howling in the middle of the night and the occasional thunderstorms accompanied by torrential kick-ass rain. Things really aren't what they seem to be in the movies. Caroling in my place has become sort of an overheated (literally) affair dealing with sweaty foreheads and palms, greasy faces under Santa hats, stuck-to-the-skin clothing and a being, dressed up in a Santa suit and mask that resembles nothing less than an abominable snowman! Seriously. Even if the abominable snowman wasn't in a red suit and black fishing boots, dancing horribly to the singing carolers, it still scares the shit out of little children! As far as I can register, carolers seem to be battling with the sweat, dripping down their noses, while practically panting their way through a song, gasping for air out of the tiredness from descending and ascending the bus, countless of times, visiting so many houses for that particular night. Or even worse, traveling by feet in the heat of the night, making their way across the thick bushes of Balik Pulau houses and embracing the mosquito bites only to arrive later than promised! Not exactly warm and cozy and enjoyable now, is it?

I guess it pretty much sucks. Ever since I was small, my caroling experience is basically all that. Can't remember anything to do with snow or a decently sung Christmas carol that doesn't wake the neighbors up. Not even one memory that doesn't include me hating the horrendous looking St. Nick jumping merrily like a monkey with a mask! Kind of a scary experience if you think of it? The least I can say is that growing up, I didn't really had to endure this monstrosity every single Christmas too. Oh, I can still remember that there was this one year when mom invited the carolers from church. All of us got worked up and excited while awaiting their arrival on that night but when they show up 2 hours later than expected, it got dad really pissed off and there goes the tradition of caroling. It was such a bad experience that none of us wanted to have carolers anymore thereafter and furthermore, the house really couldn't accommodate the amount of carolers!

There's also poh poh, who never fails to invite the carolers from Balik Pulau church every year to her home. She does it as a tradition and will get all of us back to her home when the carolers were to come. I mean, if none of us are there, she'd be the only one besides kong-kong, singing along with the carolers in Mandarin. I've never actually went back to poh poh's for the sake of the carolers - more for the pre-gathering with family members before Christmas. After all, the dressed-up Santa never fails to scare a younger (cousin) member of the family when distributing candies! And the amount of carolers are inexplicably large for a small town church. Plus, they don't sing in English. Poh poh invites the Mandarin speaking carolers every year, making me not understand a single word they say, besides the occasional mention of 'Christmas'. The place would be so crammed that taking pictures becomes hard also. But not this year. No carolers of any sorts (unless I "conduct" one with my cousins) because we're commemorating kong kong's death. Perhaps a silent dinner with all the family members should do.

Still, Christmas caroling in my context can mean a whole different experience when I'm one of the carolers in a uniform of a white shirt and red tie. Since we joined the choir group at church under the pursuits of Uncle G, 3 years back, we've been doing a little stint of caroling. I wouldn't actually consider ourselves carolers cause we are, in whatever way we put it, a choir and making a several visits to a couple of hotels per night isn't exactly caroling, is it? I don't how people come to know about our choir that hotels started requesting us to sing at their lobbies and restaurants for a handsome certain amount of fee that goes to the church or the choir fund itself for necessities like photocopying materials. Oh trust me, it was exciting at first but later, we find out through the hard way that it wasn't all that sparkling of a business. I mean, seeing those happy faces smiling back at us and being cheered and applauded at after every number sure brightens up the heart but...

We had to put up with demanding time requests like singing on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day itself. Family plans were jeopardized and a lot of planning has to be made around the requested time of performance. It sucks to know that all the other cousins are already gathered at poh poh's for our traditional Christmas Eve dinner (more to like supper) when we're still entertaining hotel guests. It's bad if you look at it like that but not when you think you're bringing the Christmas cheer to people who are far away from their homeland, celebrating Christmas in a whole new place. I'm alright with that. Hey, after all, Christmas time is about giving! Well, at least this year, we have only one hotel to bring our cheer to - Rasa Sayang Resort. Word has it, Uncle G refused to take up any offer from any other hotels because their offer was, the least to say, insufficient. Rasa Sayang Resort has also recently just finished their renovation making the place look as glamorous as ever! Obviously, caroling in hotels is much less than a sweaty affair!

Anyway, this year, Rasa Sayang Resort have already "booked" us on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day itself. There'll be another choir practice tonight at church - preparation for the caroling and Christmas Day mass. Yes, we're singing for mass on Christmas Day as well. See how busy it is? We've practically all gotten tired of complaining about having so little time to spend with relatives from near and far on Christmas Day already that we just go according to plan. It's been 3 years now and this would probably be the final year we're going to do this, seeing that Uncle G is leaving by New Year's. Oh well, let's not ponder about the sadder things. Christmas is approaching and the geese are getting fat there's a thousand things that still needs to be done - the turkey to collect, the house to clean, the food to prepare and all that follows. No matter, if you feel like it, drop by at Rasa Sayang Resort on Christmas Eve (7 p.m. - 8 p.m.) and on Christmas Day (8 p.m. - 9 p.m.) to watch us sing. Just a little Christmas cheer, you know. Something different from the sweaty, bland youths from your local church, leaving dirt and footsteps in your home, singing Mandarin Christmas carols!

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