KUALA LUMPUR: Celebrating Christmas in multi-racial Malaysia has been an eye-opening experience for visitors to the country.
Indonesian Nurdin Theofilus, 50, said it was delightful to see how people in Malaysia celebrated Christmas with joy and unity, with vibrant celebrations not being marred by cost of living issues.
When met after attending a church service at the St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Bukit Nanas here Sunday, he noted that Muslim-majority Malaysia had "very tolerant and friendly people".
The businessman pointed out that everyone - Malays, Chinese, Indians, other races as well as foreigners - were so cheerful and enthusiastic while waiting for the countdown to Christmas in the Bukit Bintang tourist belt on Saturday.
"Last night if you were at Bukit Bintang, everybody there waited for the countdown...it was amazing! I can't find it (such a scene) in Indonesia. We do have celebrations but only for the Christian community," Nurdin said.
Meanwhile, a couple from Hong Kong, George and Betty Elledge, felt that Malaysia was up there in terms of celebrating Christmas "although there is no snowfall here".
"We're very much enchanted by the spectacular Christmas displays at the malls, dazzling lights, fun street performances and endless shopping promotions compared to some other countries," said Betty who has resided in Malaysia with her husband for 10 years.
The absence of a "white Christmas" did not dampen their celebration, she said, adding that they considered Malaysia their second home which allowed them to enjoy and live life in a peaceful environment.
For Dr W. John Roxborogh, 66, the festive season would include relaxing at the beach in his native New Zealand but over here, he said Malaysians appeared to prefer spending time with family and friends.
"Christmas here is for all races where they allow Christmas caroling almost everywhere including shopping malls, compared to some other countries' so-called Christmas (celebration that is meant) only for Christians," he said.
Others spending Christmas far away from their home country missed their loved ones.
Philippine maid Richel Bagay, 35, wished that she was back in her country with her two daughters and parents.
"I feel so homesick today but my employer takes care of me well. My father was admitted to hospital last week but he's fine now," she said in between sobs.
However, the single mother said people in Malaysia were friendly, treating her as one their family members.
A check by Bernama showed that shopping complexes in the capital were crowded as people enjoyed an extended week-end in conjunction with Christmas.
Credit to Tje Star/Bernama