Celebrating end of year in Guyana, Asia, NYC

Dear Editor,

The end of year seasonal celebration is not much different among different people and different societies as I observe in travel in Guyana, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, New York, Trinidad and India. The holiday season in Asia is a most wonderful experience not very different from among Guyanese in NY or Toronto or Surinamese in Holland as relating to decorations, gifting and feting.

People celebrate the end of the year season feting in the parks, clubs, halls and hotels. Overall, in Asia, the observance and celebration of the spirit of the season is as big as any celebration elsewhere. People in these various countries and varied cultures are in a festive mood at this time of the year, as we are in the Caribbean or NY. They do similar things we do. It was a terrific experience mingling with these varied cultures that I encountered multiple times over the last 20 years.

While in Bali earlier this month, there were two international conferences on ethnic conflict and democracy that provide useful lessons for Guyana to address its problems relating to governance. People of different ethnicities and cultures come together at work and on the parks, streets, and shopping centres as they do in NY or Toronto or Trinidad or Guyana or Amsterdam.

Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Confucian followers partake in the spirit of the season just like Muslims and Hindus do in the Caribbean. The non-Christians adore the decorations that go with the season as much as they do in Guyana or in NYC. Streets and shops are sparklingly lit and decorative to attract visitors and shoppers. There are even Santas posing with children and adults for memorable photos. Homes and yards are also beautifully lit up as among Guyanese in NYC. Even Hindu temples are decorated perhaps an after effect of the Diwali celebration which is a holiday in Bali, Singapore, Malaysia and Sri Lanka.

Kuala Lumpur (capital of Malaysia which is officially an Islamic state) has been dressed up with Christmas trees around the city. Flocks of Muslims (identified by hijabs, purdah, and head scarfs), Hindus and Buddhists flock around Christmas trees to take photos; KL sports perhaps one of the tallest X-Mas trees with fantastic decorations, next to the twin towers. Businesses do well with their goods, gifts, and treats.

Singapore was perhaps the most illuminated in terms of lights though the others seem not to be too far behind. Lit displays of symbols of Crescent moon, deyas, and Christmas trees were seen at banks and streets in Trinidad.

In Singapore, the famous shopping belt on and around Orchard Road, China Town and Little India are spectacularly lit up. No shopping area in any part of the world is as dressed up and attractive as downtown Singapore, perhaps the most beautiful and peaceful country in the world.

Singapore is more lit up than Rome, Rockefeller area in NY, and the Vatican although Saigon, Ho Chi Minh, Phnom Penh, and Bangkok are not far behind.

Just outside of Georgetown at Rahaman’s Park, there is also a very tall, beautifully lit tree.

The streets are teeming with people in every city, small or large, around this time of the year not dissimilar from Manhattan. The malls are beautifully decorated similar to Bloomingdales or Saks in NYC or in Trinidad.

Children are having a great time with their parents going shopping and enjoying the holiday treats. There is a festive spirit everywhere by young and old. Parents acquire gifts and treats for their children, family members and others.

In Asia, people entertain guests (who are treated like God) in much the same way Indians treat guests in Guyana or Trinidad or the US or Holland.

People of varied religions in Asia are appreciating the significance and spirit of the holiday season as people of diverse faiths do in North America and Guyana celebrating or observing in much the same way as Guyanese in the diaspora.

Yours sincerely,

Vishnu Bisram