Christmas cheer in the air! | Sunday Observer

Christmas cheer in the air!

Christmas is round the corner, and right now, people are busy getting ready to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ, with joy and laughter, while those of us who do not celebrate the event to that magnitude, plan to go on trips to spend the holidays.

In the cities across the island there’s certainly no shortage of products that help to keep the festive season alive, from Christmas trees to cakes, to clothes and decorations. People are flocking into the towns to purchase festive goods that make the day special.

All of this is made possible by the unsung Christmas heroes, who year after year work hard to spread cheer, and help others to keep the tradition going.

“The miracle of this time is that everyone enjoys what they do,” said R. M. Wijesinghe.

A father of two from Heeloya in Bandarawela, he has been selling pine trees for the past 10 years. Though the sales are lower than it was several years ago- last year he had to take back 35 trees and the year before 80 trees- he is hopeful that the turnout of customers would be better this year.

Wijesinghe, who used to grow pine trees to sell during Christmas said, because of the Uma Oya project, there is a shortage of water and he has had to stop growing the trees.

Despite the water shortage, R. N. Samantha, also from Heeloya has not given up growing the trees. “It gives satisfaction to grow something like this that would be the main detail of Christmas day. In a way, we are growing happiness back at home and passing it on to others,” he says.

Mohammed Nilam, a pine tree seller from the same area is a relatively newcomer to the industry. He told the Sunday Observer that, the Christmas season is special to everyone, irrespective of religion.

“My family is waiting back home till I return. With the money I earn here I will buy apples, grapes and oranges for my two children and clothes for my wife. I can’t wait to go back home,” Nilam who is in Colombo for a week, added. Plastic Christmas trees, lights and tinsel are some of the items that R. P. Siripala from Midigama sells at Malwatta Road in Pettah. He has been in the business for over a decade now, and says, the customers make the trade fulfilling because they buy the decorations happily.

This is the reason that K. Nilan, a father of two from Moratuwa, started making straw barns. “I have been making these barns for the past five years because people want to buy them,” Nilan said. Together with a friend he starts to make the barns in early November. They go around the village collecting straw and wood which are the main raw material, and the duo make around 200 barns a year.

About 20km away, in Moratuwa, Suranthi Perera is busy preparing something else. A mother of two, Suranthi is the proud owner of a five-year old business, where she sells homemade Christmas cake and organic king coconut wine flavoured with cinnamon and clove.

A former teacher, she starts making the delicious products in early December. She even has an order that demands her to work on Christmas day itself.

“I will start on that after returning from Midnight Mass,” Perera said. The reason for her willingness to work on the festive day is because she enjoys doing what she does.

“I don’t look upon it as a business, but a hobby. I love making cakes and other delicacies. I ensure that they meet the requisite standard quality wise, because people share it with their loved ones and even gift them to others,” she said.

This could be what drives Sammani Perera too, (not related to Suranthi Perera) to make Christmas cake. The private sector worker from Kadawatha starts early in the month to make delicious cakes, and this year she is giving a portion of the profit to a charity run by her church’s Holy Child Community where children in need will be gifted books and stationery for the next school term.

In similar vein, this time of the year is the busiest for textile shops. Some of the businesses are open till midnight to give customers the opportunity to shop late into the day. Samanthi Badugoda from Polhengoda in Ratnapura works for a large textile shop in the heart of the city. She works for more than 12 hours during the festive season.

“It is not an easy job. We have to work into the night and then return early next day to do the same work,” she said.

Even though she feels weary at the end of the day she is not discouraged to return the next day, she said. “It is only for a week. People rely on us to help them buy clothes. I like helping people,” she said.

Some of the others who provide invaluable service are the police officers. Police security during the festive season has been beefed up to ensure that shoppers are safe.

A young police officer from Bibile, who requested anonymity, is on duty during this festive time. “It is hard work, we have to be vigilant always. But it is our duty to make sure that people are safe,” he told the Sunday Observer. He will not go home till early next year, and said, his family is used to this lifestyle.

In another district, Galle - Roshan Samarawickreme, ensuring that no one is left out during the Christmas season, runs an organisation that is disability-focused, called, ECSAT. “This year we have organised a function to celebrate Christmas,” he said. At least 120 differently-abled children are expected to take part in the event. “For those who cannot attend, we will be sending Christmas gifts to their homes,” he added.