Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Holiday Season through my Window

I have long wanted to visit the outdoor Christmas markets that spring up in city squares in Germany.

The thought of wandering outdoors in northern European winter weather usually cooled and dampened that desire, or some other practical consideration got in the way.

This past week as I trolled the live webcams on my iPod Touch I joined Germans and Hungarians, Austrians and Bulgarians as they strolled bundled up in their coats and caps sometimes in new-fallen snow, sometimes in the rain, enjoying the strings of lights and garlands, sparkling Christmas trees, a Gingerbread-house-styled booth, an impromptu ice-skating rink, lines of little stalls with families queuing up no doubt to buy some warm treat, toy or decoration.

For me one of the greatest values of IT and Blogging is their immense potential for increasing one’s awareness of other cultures when firsthand, personal contact is unavailable. As one after another Christmas market popped up on my screen I began to realize that most of them were in Eastern European countries that had until fairly recently been communist: Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic. During the Cold War such countries were always portrayed as dour, soulless, no joie de vivre: the last place one would expect to find Holiday festivities.

That cultural shock was like the one I had many years ago when, while traveling in Southeast Asia, I had the unexpected delight of finding that some of the most lavish, creative and cheery Christmas and Easter displays and festive crowds I had ever seen or mingled with, were in the streets, shopping malls and hotel lobbies in Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Hong Kong.

So, once again, the internet has caused me to adjust some of my cultural perceptions, or shall I say, misconceptions. I trust a lot of others are correcting theirs too as they look out on and participate, live, in this wide, surprising world.

* Click on pictures to enlarge *


Pak Idrus said...

The Malls in Kuala Lumpur are glittering with Christmas Decoration as usual at this time of the year. It has became a sort of a Malaysian cultural event, turning the festival deco into a fairytale like wonderland.

Have a nice day.


There's one shopping mall called Pavillion in KL where every day (december this year) at 8 pm , there will be a 30 mins artifial snow fall in the middle of the mall. And like what pak idrus said, christmas time is like a fairytale moment ...

louis said...

Hello Idrus,

The displays I have seen at KLCC, Starhill, Sungai Wang, Gurney Plaza and other malls in KL and Penang, the elaborate strings of lights across the major streets, the choirs singing carols outside Starhill and at the beachside Holiday Inn Penang, have been most impressive and enjoyable.

I have also had Christmas gift packets hung on my hotel room door and been asked to judge decorated Easter Eggs at a hotel.

All of those memories contributed to this post.

louis said...

Hi Rizal,

I was about to mention to Idrus that I had read there was snow outside the Pavilion when your information arrived confirming that phenomenon!

Wouldn't that be the ideal winter weather: 32 C and snow on the ground :)

I just have to get to visit the Pavilion. I knew the site when it was a famous girls' school and later watched its demolition from across Jln Bukit Bintang but I haven't been in KL since the Pavilion opened. Got to visit it.

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