On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Surviving the Christmas hols

This is the part that most of us do not want to talk about – let’s face it, spending a week with family members requires certain survival skills and guidance to make the holiday season a genuinely happy one.

So, here are a few tips that I have come up with in the hope that the next family reunion won’t be a morbid occasion or worse, at the lawyer’s office to sign the divorce papers.

Topping the list is how to show your appreciation for the Christmas gifts by being all smiles. It helps not to set too high an expectation. Remember to say how grateful and happy you are for those non-matching ties and books which you have no particular interest in. Yes, hug your givers and maybe even exclaim how they know you have always wanted those gifts!

Tell them, like how some politicians lie through their teeth, that you are amazed they could read your mind. Believe me, your relatives and friends would never believe it’s not the truth, like those voters who believe everything certain politicians and the Internet tell them.

Did somebody say that’s hypocritical and unacceptable during Christmas, especially when you could be exchanging gifts in church?

I would sheepishly say “yes”, but then, a little white lie won’t hurt. After all, we are a nation of people who swear we do not buy pirated DVDs (and justify this with the fact that such discs carry trailers warning us against buying pirated discs).

And see how we get all fired up, ready for a fight, over some religious issues; yet, corruption seems to be getting worse. How can one be pious and corrupt at the same time?

But most important of all, I’ve found, one should never discuss politics while trying to chew on turkey. It’s bad enough that the meat is tough and you can only guess what goes into all that stuffing. With temperature building up, a bird-brain discourse over a turkey meal can only increase the tension.

The last thing we need during a festive gathering is to spoil a family dinner with a heated debate over some lousy politicians. Please remember that not everyone shares your political beliefs, as much as you may think so. Keep politics out. Red is the preferred colour of Christmas, not yellow, blue or green.

Get to church early so nobody blames each other for failing to get seats. My two-sen piece of advice – there’s no need to act “holier than thou” by asking friends and family members why they only show up in church during Christmas.

Don’t spoil someone’s Christmas as that’s between the person and God. As for pastors, no subtle political messages please. It’s Christmas, for God’s sake.

Beside politics and religion – don’t ask single family members when they are getting married. I know the Chinese population is sliding down to 20% of the country’s population but seriously, it’s none of your business. Worry more about your spouse who could just be getting married another time.

With the church service done, the presents opened and dinner over, it’s almost certain the family will now move over to the sofa in the living room. Here’s where the fight for the remote control is likely to take place.

And my suggestion to avoid spoiling everyone’s post-Christmas dinner is to just settle on watching the giant anacondas, even though it has been repeated on Astro for the 1,001th time.

I bet it will be shown again this Christmas. If not, there’ll probably be some monster fish or giant crocodiles. I know it’s a lose-lose situation but by the time the movie begins, everyone will be bored or sleepy and call it a day anyway. Dispute resolved.

But wait, there’s still the washing up to be done! After telling the Lady Boss at home that her cooking is superb (even though the meal may have been bought), we still have to show how appreciative we are by offering to do the dishes. It’s a no-no to leave it entirely to the Indonesian maid, who will probably cry exploitation or worse, just pack off for home.

The only way you can avoid this task is pretend you are passed out as a result of too much alcohol. But only if Dad has not beaten you to it.

Luckily, Christmas is just a short celebration. There’s the 15-day Chinese New Year celebrations just weeks from now to worry about.

Merry Christmas to all readers celebrating the festival and happy holidays to all Malaysians.