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Wednesday, 14 December 2016 00:00

I Want to Be Santa Claus Too

Written by  Loh Siew Chien, Melaka / Translated by Tai Ren Yin

Volunteer Yao Fu Chai dressed up as Santa Claus and handed Dyanne Ng a present. [Photograph by Hong Geok Hui]

Does Santa Claus exist? No matter what race or religion, little children do believe in Santa Claus and feel his existence around us. However, during Christmas, besides receiving presents and savouring in wholesome meals, is there any other meaning to it? While celebrating Christmas, let’s understand the story and spirit behind the celebration.


“We wish you a Merry Christmas…” Echo of Christmas melodies could be heard from Melaka Da Ai Kindergarten. Two groups of four- and five-year-olds were busy making desserts. One group was flattening the dough, pressing on the moulds to produce cute little gingerbread man.  These would then top off with sugar frosting. The second group would carefully pour melted chocolate into rose-shaped and heart-shaped moulds.

“Where do we keep the little stars?” asked the little ones who grabbed a bunch of colourful star sugar frosting, unsure about what to do with it. Some would place a couple into their mouths as kids do with sweets. Their little craving ended after being found out by the teacher.

“This is my Ultraman!”
“Gingerbread man has legs; they will run away.”

Their imagination heightened at the sight of the gingerbread men.

“I can smell the chocolate flavour. I wish to eat it immediately!” The chocolate had many of them drooling. The initiated ones took the opportunity to taste a bit of the melted treasure off the chocolate moulds when the teachers were distracted.

“Does anyone know the special meaning behind chocolates?” asked Teacher Lee Choy Yean. Their curiosity aroused as they had never thought beyond its delicious flavour.

“Chocolate in Chinese can be written as ‘the strength of skillfully overcoming difficulties’. When we face challenges, remember not to cry, instead think of a way to solve the problem.” The teacher revealed.

On the day of December 13, 2016, the children of Da Ai Kindergarten were preparing for the next day’s Christmas party. When the fragrant gingerbread was out of the oven, and the chocolate moulded, everyone helped to carefully pack these into beautiful little gift boxes to be brought them to their family.

The children were brimming with joy and could barely contain their excitement thinking about the gifts for their friends and the next day’s Christmas party.

So this is what Christmas is all about

Most children could sense the arrival of Christmas as the Malls and public commercial areas would put up decorations, the snowmen and Santas and the distinctive songs and music ringing through the halls and passages. However amidst all the joy and exuberance, many could lose sight of the origin and meaning of this festive event.

Teacher Hong Juat Ngoh took the initiative to educate the children during the party, “Christmas day is a day to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ.” Besides Christians, the celebration had evolved into a modern culture celebrated by many. Even though most of the children in Da Ai Kindergarten are Buddhists, understanding a different culture, learning to respect each other, and living in harmony were the messages that the teacher wanted to convey.

The children’s impression of Santa Claus was an old man with a long white beard and big belly, wearing a cosy red coat, carrying a large sack, riding on his reindeer sleigh distributing presents. However, who was the first Santa Claus?

The legend had it that many years ago, a very kind man named St Nicholas, used up a significant amount of his fortune to buy winter clothing and food for the homeless, hungry tramps and the needy during the cold winter days. That was how he got the title Santa Claus. Over time, Santa Claus became a symbol of Generosity and Kindred spirit who spread joy and hope to the world.

The similarity in all religions is the promotion of love, and to contribute to those who are suffering. Watching Santa Claus distributing love, the children thought about the Tzu Chi volunteers, who would bring relief and food during disasters, warming the hearts of the victims. Santa Claus is like Master Cheng Yen, showering love to people all around the world.

News of the civil war in Syria with its sick, injured, and deaths seemed incessant. Scenes of destruction, children without parents, and hopelessness are heartbreaking. Having witnessed the trauma through the screen, the children were reminded of the homeless children and their sufferings on the other side of the world.

The teachers encouraged the children to contribute by setting aside some money for the bamboo banks during the holidays and to bring these back when school resumed to send their love and blessings to the Syrian victims. During this Christmas, the children would have the opportunity to emulate the spirit of Santa Claus – to be thankful and contribute.

The blessings of the celebration

Upon listening to the story, the children were pleasantly surprised to see three Christmas trees set up along the corridor of the kindergarten. The teachers and students immediately decorated the trees with ornaments brought from home. These included small light bulbs, Santa Claus and snowman dolls, socks, little presents and sweets. Then, the star, representing hope, was placed on the top. Finally, they happily took photos with their masterpieces.

After the afternoon nap and tea time, the Christmas party began! Everyone changed into beautiful clothes and headed over to the party hand in hand. Some even wore Santa hats and reindeer horns.

The band led by parent Huang Shus Huey and her friends, featuring guitar and electronic keyboard, got everyone singing Christmas carols and dancing together. The party was in full swing with moving mass of colour, music and laughter.

The climax of the event was the gift exchange. “Santa Claus” distributed the presents to the children in an orderly manner. However, some kids, when seeing the present, shook their head and said, “I don’t want, this is not my present.” It was apparent that they did not understand the true meaning of gift exchange, which was the sharing of blessings.

This was solved after a gentle explanation on by the teachers. Curiosity was in the air, with some feeling the wrappings to guess while others were tearing a small corner off to peep at the contents. The feeling of joy was infectious with many sharing their new toys with their friends.
Finally, everyone gathered to have refreshments. The children were famished and overjoyed at the sight of food. It was interesting to note that the main attraction was the fruit basket. Good food and company proved to be the best ingredients for a festive celebration.

Being like a Santa Claus

“I love the white Christmas,” five-year-old Dyanne Ng shared her Christmas vision.

For this year’s kindergarten Christmas celebration, she had prepared two presents, one for the teacher and the other for her best friend. She received a Christmas gift once and could still remember it vividly, so she would like to share this experience with her friends as well.
    
“Santa Claus is a good man, who will help and give presents to people.” After listening to the teacher’s explanation, she started understanding the real meaning of Christmas. “I want to be a good person like Santa Claus and go help others every day. I also want to fill the bamboo bank with money to help the poor and hungry.” Celebrating the festival while doing good deeds has become her new interpretation of Christmas Day.

Four-year-old See Jia Yee shared her impression of Santa Claus, “When I sleep, Santa Claus would give me a present. When I wake up, I would see a doll. Everyone will receive a present, because the reindeers would carry Santa Claus around to deliver presents.” The children’s imagination is a joy to behold.

Asked if she was willing to do good deeds and help others like the Santa Claus, she nodded her head and steadily said, “We children do not have the capability like adults, but we can help our friends who are sick. Also, let’s not be angry at each other. I guess this is considered helping people!” She does have her way of interpretation, but the concept of doing good is clearly deeply ingrained in her heart.

She kept the gift she prepared a mystery, “I cannot tell you, because if I do, there would be no surprise anymore!” She had no hesitation choosing her favourite toy from her collection, for her buddies. “I still have a lot of other toys at home; Christmas is about giving, just like the Santa Claus.” She suddenly touched her head and said, “Hey, how did this Santa hat get on my head?”

A hyperactive Kang Zhi Yuan said, “Santa Claus did not steal things, he merely entered the house through the chimney to give presents.” A friendly impression of Santa Claus was engraved in his mind, and he hoped to share with everyone about the good deeds of Santa Claus. As this was the first time he celebrated Christmas, he had enthusiastically participated in preparing the snacks, decorating the Christmas tree and attending the party.

He pointed to the sock on the tree and exclaimed, “I sewed that! With socks, Santa Claus can then place the presents in it.” He had been looking forward to it. Although the sock was too small to fit in a present, he did get what he wished. Upon opening it, it was an English story book which he started reading immediately. This happy and meaningful Christmas celebration would be his best childhood memory.



Many children do dream that during Christmas Eve, Santa Claus will place the presents they wished for into the large socks hung by the bed while they are asleep. In the dream, there would be snowflakes floating in the air and sleigh bells echoing through the sky. It would be a magical and joyful Christmas scene.

However, in the midst of the joyous festivities, what is important is the message behind this holiday and the spirit of Santa Claus. Enlighten the children not just to think about themselves and what presents to wish for, but to think about others, to contribute and make this holiday a more meaningful one.

 

On the eve of the Christmas party, the children of Da Ai Kindergarten made ginger bread and chocolates to be brought home for sharing. [Photograph by Loh Siew Chien]   Teacher Hong Juat Ngoh shared the Christmas story with the children. [Photograph by Alex Tan Ah Lek]

On the eve of the Christmas party, the children of Da Ai Kindergarten made ginger bread and chocolates to be brought home for sharing. [Photograph by Loh Siew Chien]
 
Teacher Hong Juat Ngoh shared the Christmas story with the children. [Photograph by Alex Tan Ah Lek]
 
The children and teachers of Melaka Da Ai Kindergarten decorated the Christmas trees together. [Photograph by Alex Tan Ah Lek]   The band led by parent Huang Shus Huey and friends, featuring guitar and electronic keyboard, got everyone singing Christmas carols joyfully. [Photograph by Alex Tan Ah Lek]

The children and teachers of Melaka Da Ai Kindergarten decorated the Christmas trees together. [Photograph by Alex Tan Ah Lek]
 
 
The band led by parent Huang Shus Huey and friends, featuring guitar and electronic keyboard, got everyone singing Christmas carols joyfully. [Photograph by Alex Tan Ah Lek]
 
See Jia Yee (left) curiously played with the ornament on the Christmas tree. [Photograph by Yong Siew Lee]   Kang Zhi Yuan could not wait to open the present. It was an English story book. He loved it and read it immediately. [Photograph by Hong Geok Hui]

See Jia Yee (left) curiously played with the ornament on the Christmas tree. [Photograph by Yong Siew Lee]
 
 
Kang Zhi Yuan could not wait to open the present. It was an English story book. He loved it and read it immediately. [Photograph by Hong Geok Hui]