LUNAR NEW YEAR approaches. People all over Asia are disposing of the top traditional Christmas items: saxophones, KFC cartons, balls of cheese, etc.
What? Yes, I love to see the look of surprise on the faces of Western visitors when they realize that Christmas (or Ba da Din in Hindi, Sing Daan Jit in Chinese) is very different in Asia.
During Christmas in the Philippines, people eat vast amounts of a foodstuff called queso de bola.
This means “ball of cheese”, and is a name which neatly sums up both the food item AND the appearance of any person who eats it regularly.
In China, Christmas is associated with Santa Claus as a saxophone player. This tradition stems from the popularity of a jazz-playing animatronic Santa doll mass-produced a few years ago.
In India, “Christmas Baba” arrives in a horse and cart or a motorbike.
In Japan, people believe that the traditional way to celebrate Christmas is to eat a bucket of KFC chicken (families have to reserve them weeks in advance—see pic of queue below).
Why? In the 1970s, lonely Westerners unable to find turkey settled for the only poultry they could find: KFC chicken.
The fast food chain exploited this through a massive advertising campaign, and now people take it for granted that Mary and Joseph celebrated the birth of the Christ child at the end of year one BC with a bucket of the Colonel’s Original Flavor, double fries and Pepsi.
Just imagine if the Angel Gabriel told Mary what was actually going to happen in the future.
GABRIEL: “And two thousand years from now, the most populous part of the world will commemorate your baby’s birth by eating fried chicken and gazing at animatronic dolls of fat men in red velvet suits playing saxophones.”
MARY: “Yeah, right.”
AND WE did the usual thing at Christmas: we forced ourselves and our children to go and give gifts to people on the streets.
This is always the most awful thing to psyche yourself up to do—and always turns out to feel the greatest thing when you’re actually doing it.
“The world is my country and to do good is my religion.”
NINE JAILBIRDS escaped from prison transport in Malaysia last week by throwing powder from instant noodle sachets into the eyes of guards, a Kuala Lumpur reader named Amy told me. So, MSG is bad for you.
MALE OFFICIALS drafted a law forcing women to sit “side-saddle” in a city in Indonesia last week. Since no one rides horses any more, the law will apply to women on scooters and motorcycles in Lhokseumawe, a city on Sumatra island. Curious how parts of Asia are becoming like the West in the Victorian era, but without the cool bits, like explorers in pith helmets, Abraham Lincoln hunting vampires, etc.
Officials explained that they had seen women sitting behind men and realized that this looked like an indecent act. These officials need sex education urgently.
EVERY DAY, there’s at least one passenger who puts on all his clothes at once because he doesn’t want to pay extra baggage fees, airport official Christian Fardel told me. But he said he was more amused by people trying to use up all their suntan lotion before it is confiscated by security officials: “People cover themselves with it at the check-in counter.” The handsome Frenchman added, sighing: “But no lady travelers have asked me to help with this process—yet.”
JOKE FROM a young reader named Shelly:
Q: What do you all an alligator in a vest?
A: An investigator.