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Old 12-24-2012, 01:43 AM   #1
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Default The Festive Season With a Difference

By no specific intention, I have spent the past three Christmas periods outside of Australia. One was spent in Japan, one in Thailand and this one, in Laos.

When I was a child in the 50s, Christmas had on overtone of religion, and the pre Christmas period started with lights being strung at the end of the first week of December. Department stores went overboard in providing a spectacular display, communities staged parades and the event had not yet been hijacked from the church, by the retail trade.

Christmas in the west, now starts in September and is seamlessly welded to Easter which apparently commences on the same day that Santa is retired for the next eight months; and while I am not a religious person, I miss the message and the story which the church promotes.

I discovered an irony of asian Christmas in Japan, a buddhist country. The benefit of Christmas to Japanese retailers is obvious. It extends the New Year ritual of gift giving. Japanese have taken to the jolly fat bastard with relish. While there is no overt religious message, the sentiment is clear. Peace and goodwill is tirelessly promoted in a sedate and respectful manner, whilst the merry japlanders buy up big.

It reminds me of Christmas when I was a child. In Japan, the lights are lit on about the 14th of December and are taken down before New Year. Santa looks wonderful in a plush red suit, trimmed with thick white fur and the carols are not played endlessly for months at a time in exploitative, monopolistic supermarkets selling cheap Chinese crap.

In Thailand, there was a similar feel. Thailand professes Buddhism, but does not necessarily follow its dictates. Christmas in Thailand is an event which both arrives and leaves in December. And, it is somewhat tacky. Not tacky in a western, retail sense; rather it has much to do with the I-couldn't-give-a-damn, Thai attutide characterised in their oft repeated saying 'mai bpen rai'. Translated, this essentially means much the same as a long, sad sigh, uttered by any woman who has lived for too long with a drunken husband, in a caravan (US-read 'trailer) park, at the end of a dirty, dead end road.

This year I am in Vientiane. The capital of Laos. The scene of the war that never was. Vientiane is a small capital of just 200,000 people. Laotians are warm, simple and genuine people who have been screwed over by a succession of countries with imperial ambitions.

Laos is a Marxist/Leninist, single party communist state. Yet, the Buddhist fire burns bright in the souls of its inhabitants. I have not seen a Santa, a Christmas tree; no frenzied retail rip-offs and indeed, it appears there is no concept of the Christmas period whatsoever.

Except.....I have joined a casually formed group of likeminded souls determined to celebrate the season. There are two other Aussies, two Kiwis, a South African, a Slovenian couple. There's a Frog, three Poms and a Belgian.

Together we have found a small bistro run by a American expat married to a Laotian girl. He is going to cook us a roast dinner. We have found some reasonable plonk (US-wine) and joy of joys, we have found two rich, dark fruit cakes which, when nuked in a microwave and served with 'creme anglaise' will do wonderfully as a Christmas pudding.

In the absense of piped carols, we have had to produce songsheets and learn some words. Zivorad and Niki from Slovenia have a squeeze box, JD from the US has a miniature guitar and we will sing, eat, drink and be merry, and will pass out small presents in a distinctly old fashioned way. Niki is also a staunch orthodox Christian who has promised a short narrative on the reason why Christmas exists.

Who would have thought one would need to travel to a tropical,backward, communist country to rediscover a traditional Christmas? It may well be one of the best yet.

Merry Christmas!

"if at first you don't succeed....Redefine success"!

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Old 12-24-2012, 02:43 AM   #2
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And to everyone else reading, for whom it matters, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

= New South Wales, Queensland,
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Old 12-24-2012, 07:54 AM   #3
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Default Happy Holidays!

Enjoy your home-made Christmas fun. It's the best way to do Christmas.
"Do or do not. There is no try." - Yoda

What we're doing - The sailing life aboard and the Schooner Chandlery.

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Old 12-24-2012, 09:00 AM   #4
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Auzzee, A delightful read! I wish my wife and I were there to join you! A very Merry Christmas to all! gts1544
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Old 12-24-2012, 10:05 AM   #5
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Sounds good to me. I resisted buying Christmas pudding on two occasions in the last week, on the basis that it never did fit the weather and is more of a northern hemisphere thing. Instead I settled for a six pack of fruit mince pies and for a rare treat I bought bacon and eggs and made B&E sandwiches, one of my favourite feeds.

It's bucketing rain here in Sydney, and I'm glad to be out of the commercial madness and looking at it all from a distance. But I'm sure the fireworks will awaken the slumber in the next week, and there's always the Sydney to Hobart race to watch on TV.

Cheers to you, and a Merry Christmas to all.
"The cure for anything is salt water... sweat, tears, or the sea" -- Isak Dinesen

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Old 12-24-2012, 05:35 PM   #6
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Auzzee, a great read and much philosophy there. Both sad and true at the same time. We seem to share a lot of views, especially how utterly disgraceful it is to so seamlessly weld all those 'ka-ching' seasons together.

Enjoy your special events and also many good wishes to the other posters above. Perhaps it is a good time to just sit back and reflect and renew thoughts and ideals to strive for. Regardless of what color or stripe or even species you are. ( Frogs and poms? OK, frogs I understand but Poms... aren't dem dose cute little doggies? )

(guess those 1st-fleeters still have it in for those old-islanders

Ivo s/v Linnupesa
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Old 12-25-2012, 01:38 AM   #7
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POMS = er...Persons Of Magnificent Stature
FROGS = umm.. Fellow Rustic Of Great Sensibility.
"if at first you don't succeed....Redefine success"!

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Old 12-28-2012, 11:19 AM   #8
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Happy New Year friends..enjoy a lot..

Muscle Rev Xtreme
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