A Christmas far away from home

  • Nation
  • Friday, 25 Dec 2015

Handful of gifts: Santa Claus handing out presents to the children at the home of Michael and Jenah in Bagan Ajam, Butterworth.

BUTTERWORTH: They may be far away from their hometowns but the joy of Christmas could be clearly seen on the faces of a group of East Malaysians here when carollers from the local church came carolling at one of their homes.

The carollers from St Mark’s Church sang Christian songs and hymns as a person dressed as Santa Claus gave out presents and sweets to the little ones at the home of Sarawakian couple Michael Collin Siang, 29, and Jenah Achie, 30, in Taman Udara, Bagan Ajam.

The couple, their children, Harldalgo Munez, six, and Mackenzie Adriell, two, and Michael’s mother Kumoi, 55, were thrilled to welcome the carollers who were led by church priest Rev John Kennady Samuel.

“Just as the angels shared the news of Jesus Christ’s birth at the first Christmas, we wanted to share the Christmas joy with our East Malaysian Christian friends who are unable to be home for the celebration,” said Rev John.

Joining the fun were Michael’s Sarawakian colleague Wilson Juntang, 30, his wife Mary Sulia, 29, and their children Vannesa Allen, seven, Caren Jimma, five, and Ian Martin, three.

The younger carollers and East Malaysian children wore costumes depicting Bible characters from the Christmas story, namely Mary, Joseph, wise men, angels and shepherd.

Michael and Jenah, who are from villages located 15km apart in Sri Aman, have only been back to Sarawak twice since moving to West Malaysia eight years ago after getting married - once during Christmas and another time during Hari Gawai.

They, however, keep to their tradition during Christmas. Jenah said she would cook Christmas Day essentials such as Laksa Sarawak, using authentic paste brought from Sarawak, and Pansuh Ayam which is chicken cooked in bamboo shoots.

“I also prepare Kek Lapis Sarawak, rendang ayam, chicken curry and ketupat and we usually host our East Malaysian friends to a Christmas open house,” the administrative clerk said.

Michael, an armament technician at the Royal Malaysian Air Force base here, said he would wear the official Ibanese attire of baju burung, a sleeveless handwoven vest sewn by his mother, while Jenah would wear the handwoven ngepan dress together with a scarf and beaded accessories every Christmas.

Michael’s fellow church member Pail Rynley Morong, 45, from Kota Marudu in Sabah, said he chose to settle down in Penang after his marriage to Penangite Pauline Shantini Robert, 42, some 18 years ago.

They have two sons - Roy Aaron, 15, and Ruel Adrian, 11.

“We usually return to my village in Sabah once in two years for Pesta Kaamatan while Christmas is always celebrated here in Penang. I always look forward to tasting my mother-in-law’s chicken varuval dish every Christmas,” said Pail, a lab technician.

He said he missed attending Christmas gatherings at his village community hall in Sabah, adding that cultural shows including the sumazau dance, singing contests and bible quizzes would usually be held there.

“In the beginning I used to miss celebrating Christmas with my parents but since I now have a family here, I do not feel that sad,” he said.

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