On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Joy to the world

It is a ritual we go through year after year, especially the husbands. My wife is not telling me what she wants and the last time I checked, I haven’t been able to read her mind.

I am supposed to know what she wants by virtue of the fact that we have been married for 21 years. Of course, it does not help that my memory fades pretty fast as I get older.

Most of us cannot even remember what we had for lunch yesterday, so why should I be blamed if I cannot recall what she likes. Or worse, how we spent our first Christmas together.

Over the next few days, I will however need to be more attentive to hints, so that I can get the right gift. If I foul up, there goes my Saturday nights watching football and guzzling endless bottles of beer. The season isn’t even halfway through and I need to cheer Arsenal on to the top four spots, at least, with the boys. So I had better play smart.

This year, I am roping in our Indonesian maid to be my accomplice, asking what Madam wants for Christmas. I have told her she will be rewarded for her good deed as semua bisa diatur (everything can be arranged).

Then, there is my fickle-minded daughter, a teenager whose most used phrase these days is “bored”. If she has her way, daddy will soon be filing for bankruptcy.

But at least, this one’s easier to handle. I won’t be asking her what she wants for Christmas and she knows it’s pointless or, more accurately, hopeless, telling me because she won’t get it.

For the ladies, it’s so much easier to get gifts for men. We guys just want our tablets, watches, ties, cufflinks, CDs, video games, jackets and shoes. Sure, we like Harley Davidson bikes and those cool leather jackets but that’s stretching our imagination a bit too far. Still, it’s good to fantasise once in a while.

There are some pretty cool gadgets too. I just spotted a pillow with built-in remote control while surfing the Net. You know, half the time, we struggle to search for the remote control (hint hint).

Sometimes, the holiday tension isn’t just about buying the right gifts but also about food. Why must we have turkeys for Christmas? The bird is big and its meat is tough. The only good part for me is when we cook porridge Chinese-style the next day with leftover turkey.

For our Christmas party, Kayu Nasi Kandar is a regular feature and I will not apologise for it. There are no mat sallehs on my guest list and even if there are, they will just have to get used to this Penang-style Christmas party, where turkey is just a side dish.

But my wife and daughter do not want to be associated with this unconventional Christmas dinner. They insist that there must be turkey or at least a roast chicken, pudding, salad and lamb. And all those side greens, which I think are only suitable for rabbits.

It’s an annual tussle of wills. Sometimes I win and sometimes they win. Most times, it’s a compromise, especially when I have successfully cajoled my friends to ask the wife if nasi kandar is on the menu.

Though annoyed, she would politely reply it would be served, they tell me later. For this devilish plot, my friends get to drink my best wine.

When it comes to selecting music for the ambience, I’m glad to say this one’s totally my turf. Besides the 80s retro music, there are the compulsory Christmas songs, including those by Mariah Carey and Kenny G. Of course, 88.9 FM is a must too.

But the most important Christmas present for me is the “gift” of family, relatives and friends. Christmas is about giving and sharing. Without all these, there is no Christmas.

Not forgetting, of course, the tradition of carolling where we sing praises and extol the joys of the season.

Let’s not get ourselves upset over a statement by a low-ranking policeman on the need to apply for police permits for carolling as the country’s top leaders have stated there is no need for such a silly ruling.

Let’s stop this silly political cash-in on a policeman’s statement. Surely the cops wouldn’t want all this paperwork during the holidays.

It’s a season to be merry, so let’s put aside politics for a while and just celebrate the year’s end.

Merry Christmas to all Malaysians, especially readers of this column.