International Student, and travel writer, Nandra Anissa discussed her observations as an Indonesian spending her Christmas in Cardiff.
I come from a family that does not celebrate Christmas, and most of what I’ve learned about Christmas, I learned from films. So growing up I was familiar with Santa Claus, presents, and carol singers. Living in the part of Indonesia where people were predominantly Muslim, I have to say the “feel” of Christmas is not as festive as it is in Cardiff.
I think one of the main differences I can point out about Christmas back home and here is the fact that everybody, regardless of their religious background, celebrates Christmas. It seems that back in Indonesia, Christmas is perceived as a Christian holy day and not just a festive holiday for everyone. Those who celebrates it would go to church with their family, have a nice festive dinner and open up presents. While those who, like me and my family, did not celebrate Christmas, just enjoyed the day off.
One of the similarities I found regarding Christmas back in my hometown and in Cardiff, though, is the fact that we are constantly encouraged to consume. Whenever I walk around town, I’d constantly see signs of Christmas deals and sales. The same thing occurs in Jakarta’s malls, each stores you walk into would play the same Christmas carols and offers yet another 50% off on various items that may just be the right gift for your friends and/or family. This sort of phenomenon saddens me a little, and makes me question whether Christmas is still valued as a time of togetherness or merely for presents and gifts?
However, ever since coming to Cardiff I absolutely fell in love with the Christmas market. Granted, it might be another way of encouraging us to spend money during Christmas, but I see it as celebrating tradition. I enjoy strolling through the pop up stalls and rummage through selected Welsh handicrafts, tasting samplers of fine Welsh cheese or having a nice cup of mulled wine to warm myself up. I find that the Christmas market is one of the most interesting ways to learn about culture.
Another thing that majorly differentiates Christmas back home and here is the fact that all activities cease to exist during Christmas day. It was a truly odd feeling to be walking around, all stores are closed and most people are enjoying the day in the sanctuary of their homes, with their loved ones. Back home, people would actually take the day off and go out with friends or families. The malls and restaurants are filled up again after opening later than usual.
To me, the fact that most people are somehow forced to stay home with their family is what makes Christmas a very valuable day. It was a day where you sort of forget about the outside world for a little while and spend some time with your loved ones. I remember when I was here during Christmas, I ended up spending an entire day with my friends, just sitting around the table, having food, a bit of wine, talk about random things and share this moment together.
All in all, since coming to Cardiff, I might just have embraced the Christmas spirit a little bit more than usual. Despite the fact that I may be away from home and my family, it is still a festivity I enjoy celebrating, just as a moment to appreciate what this city has offered me. That being said, I hope everyone will have a marvellous Christmas, no matter which corner of the world you are in!
Written by Nandra Galang Anissa