Christmas is always spent with family
starts with going for Mass on Christmas Eve
watching the Nativity play
and singing Christmas hymns.
then back home for a festive supper spread
of roasted chicken or turkey,
mashed potatoes with green peas,
chocolate and sugi cake with hot coffee.
One year, I plucked up my courage
announced I was going for a holiday
a Christmas holiday away from home
letting no one talk me out of going.
Stony silence greeted me
not a word for a whole minute
then pandemonium broke loose
and guilt was laid in layers.
I stood strong, never wavering
youth full of arrogance
but meanness was not me
I did baked the sugi cake.
Came time for my flight
excited, for it was my first flight
a little heavy of heart
my first Christmas away from home.
My friend’s home in the country-side
restful and rustic, time slows down
a history of head-hunters
her ancestors of long gone.
No chaos to attend to,
or preparation of the midnight feast
as guest of honour, my duties little
a Christmas full of merry-making.
a visit to the longhouses in Kuching
of the Iban renowned for headhunting
a strong and warring tribe in ancient times
retaining most of their heritage and culture.
That Christmas I’ll always remember
Mass celebrated in the Iban language
but easy to follow for being Catholic
Mass is the same in any language.
Christmas Eve supper was unique
A huge spread of local dishes
the ‘Tuak’, a must in their cooking
similar to Chinese rice wine.
At midnight I phoned my family
before I could wish them Merry Christmas
an earful of complaints I got
my sugi cake a baking disaster.
Now, I did feel guilty and miserable
as only siblings know the art of how
then I heard my mother’s voice
don’t worry there’s always next year.
Not a Christmas holiday away from home since
but that nostalgic memory pops out of the blue
I smile, I drift back in time,
to when I was not home for Christmas.
By C.E. Pereira