Yes, I know, it’s not called Malaysian Christmas, but for my non-Muslim friends back home this is the closest thing I can compare it to. In actuality, I attended Hari Raya Aidilfitri. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
Karlee and I had planned to go our separate ways in Kuala Lumpur (her off to the Perhentian islands and me kicking it in KL for awhile) but our plans changed the first night in the city. We were fresh off the plane, wandering through the backpacker district in search of butter chicken when we ran into some familiar faces from Thailand. More specifically: that guy that worked on the pirate ship sunset cruise we once did and that DJ/fire-spinner/singer from the bar we frequented in Railay.
It took me a minute to recognize them (The Pirate had recently cut off his dreadlocks and The Fire-Spinner looks a bit different when not surrounded by flaming hot danger) but Karlee clued in right away as she had spent some additional time with them during a second visit to Railay.
Turns out, they were both in KL to renew their Thai Working Visas and The Fire-Spinner was originally from here. Being an “expert” on the area, he offered to show us around the city. We agreed to meet up with them the following day.
I was very impressed with Kuala Lumpur (and Malaysia, in general). The people are friendly, traffic flows in an orderly manner, passersby use words like “thank you,” “sorry,” and “excuse me,” and at one point a car actually stopped for me at a crosswalk (gasp! craziness…I know). The streets are decently clean, I applaud the amount of Western food options, and the shopping is incredible. The place is also very multi-cultural. Lots of Muslims, lots of Chinese, lots of Indians…it felt like Canada. I didn’t realize it until I got there, but I was really missing the comforts of home…so KL was perfect; it felt like home.
After visiting the famed Petronas Towers and numerous shopping centres, The Fire-Spinner decided to go all out and invite us to virtually everything (looks like Karlee would be skipping the Perhentians and I would be postponing my plans to nap all week).
First was his friend’s surprise birthday party. We had dinner with the kindest of Malaysians followed by karaoke at a place across town. Now, I love me some karaoke (particularly of the Asian variety), but I must say I have never, in my life, felt so self-conscious about my singing voice. Apparently the Malaysians can sing…like all of them. They all sound incredible. I felt bad stealing mic time when there was clearly a Malaysian Adele in the building.
We ended the birthday festivities with a delicious second dinner (it was Ramadan…these people were hungry).
Then there was the big one: Malaysian Christmas. Apparently The Fire-Spinner hadn’t been home for Christmas in years so it was a big deal that he happened to be in town for it (and a big deal that we got to tag along). This is likely religiously incorrect, but from what I understand, Aidilfitri is essentially the last day of Ramadan. The Malaysians spend weeks fasting during daylight hours so they celebrate the end with a day of prayer, family, and food (basically the same as our Christmas minus the fasting…white people don’t fast).
With Malaysian Christmas being Muslim, Karlee and I were expected to cover up. This was fine ‘n all, but if I’m being forced to wear head to toe fabric I insist that it be jazzy. So off we headed to Little India to find appropriately modest (and bedazzled) outfits. The Fire-Spinner explained what was and wasn’t acceptable and we found some suitable dresses. They cost us a small fortune (2 days of my budget to be exact), but I must say, we looked pretty damn cool.
We were ready for Malaysian Christmas.
We headed over to The Fire-Spinner’s family home once they’d finished their morning prayers, arriving to a house full of people. Their Christmas was basically the same as ours (lots of food, lots of family time, lots of food) except without all the hugging. It was all very…modest (leave room for Jesus! Wait…).
But the people were great (and oh so musical!). We watched The Fire-Spinner’s nieces perform a traditional Malaysian song (girls have talent), and watched the rest of the family jam on their guitars. Apparently The Fire-Spinner’s brother was in the #3 band in Malaysia in the 90’s, and The Fire-Spinner, himself, was about to make it big before he fled to Thailand. Friggin’ Malaysians…so musical.
We said our goodbyes and left the house in a food coma. Then we napped (I’m not kidding about the food coma). ‘Twas a lovely day.
Merry Malaysian Christmas.