Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmases past and present

Sibu was built on very solid Methodist values when it was set up in 1903 and later with the coming of Rev Hoover, management of the new town was very American and very Methodist.

Sibu is a Methodist town, just like Sitiawan in Perak. And indeed this is very remarkable.

Each Christmas my thoughts would go back as far as I can remember. And remembering the past only makes the present much better.

Past Christmases celebrated with Grandfather Kung Ping and Grandmother Siew were memorable ones.

From a granddaughter's view every Christmas with Grandfather was a specially good one because he had a great Christmas tree and I remember my first reindeer hanging from the tree.And I remember Aunty Greta putting up the last touch of the star on top of the tree.(that was the period before she married Uncle Henry and before Grandfather passed away.) And then the aunts would a few days later put away all the baubles, special pieces in a box , ready for the next Christmas because Grandmother Siew was a very neat and tidy person.

Although it was a small tree, placed on top of the table near the huge mirror, it was a tree that exuded love, care and the Christmas and Christian spirit. There was this special air in Grandfather's house - the joy of homecoming and the joy of reunion. He had such a presence, and an aura about him as head of the family.

I can still hear now, as I write, people calling him "Ah Ka"(father) and "Ah Kung" (grandfather). These were old fashionFoochow ways of calling father and grandfather.

I believe Grandfather loved Christmas because he also enjoyed the midnight carolling. Carollers would come and he would be so happy serving them drinks, biscuits and rambutans.And he would listen very silently the little sermon the pastor would give. He waited for the blessings or benediction that the pastor would pronounce before the group left the house. Today I would like to believe that he had the faith that the blessings would come to his family.

As a child looking at that tree, I felt very proud to be a member of the Tiong family. Somehow, my own parents did not have a tree in our house in Hua Hong Ice Factory. Perhaps my father thought that if Grandfather had a tree in his house, it was alright if we did not have a tree in our own house.But thanks to the big family home, I did not in any way feel deprived at Christmas. Food served by Grandfather and Grandmother were always luxurious and delicious. And we were blessed for having Ah Hiong Koo and later Ah Mee with us.

The next tree I looked at lovingly was the Masland Church tree. It was always quite near to the piano. And I remember Mr. Chong, Ivy's father, playing the piano . I loved the Foochow service and all the wonderful hymn singing in Foochow. I was also amazed by the preaching in Foochow by Rev Dr. Coole. Later we had Rev. Ling Chi Shii who had a very low bass voice. In my youth I was particularly impressed by the preaching of Rev Ho Siew Liong, the only Heng Hua pastor I know in my young days. I remember him being a great reader and he had all those soft covered books which came all the way from China in his library.

AS I compare Christmases past and Christmases present, one very important ingredient is the roles played by our own earthly grandfather and father who would make the important decisions for the direction family should take. Family culture and life depend so significantly on their wisdom. Our joy and outlook in life, our attitude towards everything and our own youthful behaviour hinge on that very firm guidance from the head of the family.

Likewise, our belief in our Heavenly Father who has given us spiritual direction in our lives continue to put us on the right track all the time.

And finally, I will always remember the Christmas letter from Aunty Grace who wrote: "If I could give you presents, they would be wrapped up in the boxes under my Christmas tree. And these presents are Joy, Peace,Faith,Courage, Patience, Love, Warm Relationships,loyalty,Good health...and as I look at each light on my tree, as each light would represent father, mother, my brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces, sisters in law and brothers in law....see how bright they shine! " She had a wonderful style in writing, very American.

So in the same way, I would like to wrap up metaphorically my presents for you all, and place them under my tree...Joy, peace, patience,love, faith,loyalty,courage, warm relationships to be opened to bless you every day of the coming new year!!

Let us remember those who have gone before us. May their souls rest in peace.

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