Dec 07 2011

Celebrating Christmas in Kuala Lumpur

Published by at 1:37 am under Festivals

When talking about how Christmas is celebrated in Kuala Lumpur, it is important to draw a distinction between the city’s small Christian community, and everyone else. For the vast majority of KL’s population, the festival is devoid of any religious connotations. Even the festive decorations have been denuded of any Christian imagery.

Taking the Christ out of Christmas, KL style.

Taking the Christ out of Christmas, KL style.

Malaysians generally need no encouragement to go shopping. But the frenzy of consumerism which accompanies the period round Christmas, is truly a sight to behold.

Consumerism central.

Kuala Lumpur Consumerism Central.

A familiar complaint in many Christian-majority countries is that Christmas has become an exercise in over-indulgence, whether that be eating, drinking or making merry. For many people though, it is this very element of the festive period that they enjoy most. Anyone wishing to over-indulge while in KL should have no complaints, except that is about the price of booze. Making the most of drinks promotions is of particular importance this time of year.

Putting the spirit into spiritual.

Putting the spirit into spiritual.

Why anyone would yearn for a traditional Christmas roast while in the tropics is beyond me. But, for those who have this bizarre craving, a number of eateries in KL offer a reasonably authentic take on the experience, such as The Albion, a British-style gastropub near Changkat Bukit Bintang.

An untraditional Christmas panto.

An untraditional Christmas panto.

In terms of performance arts, a number of special events are taking place this month, including Si Putih and the 7 Makciks (an all-male take on Snow White and the Seven Dwarves), at The Actors Studio, December 14-23 (30-50 ringgit); and a Christmas concert at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre, December 22-23 and 25 (33 ringgit). For something a bit more intimate, La Bodega lounge, KL’s most pleasant space to listen to live music, has Christmassy gigs on December 22 and 23 (21:30, free admission).

One of KL's oldest and prettiest churches.

One of KL's oldest and prettiest churches.

About one in 10 people in Malaysia is Christian, most of them indigenous people from Sabah and Sarawak. In KL, the community accounts for little more than 5% of the population. But despite decades of official discrimination, the city is filled with thriving churches of all denominations, from Syrian Orthodox to Presbyterian.

Likely to be rather fuller on Christmas Eve.

Likely to be rather fuller on Christmas Eve.

Unlike for the rest of KL’s population, Christmas is an important religious occasion, not just an excuse to shop. All of the city’s churches have special services and events to mark the festival. These include two of KL’s most attractive places of worship, St Mary’s Anglican Cathedral and St John’s Catholic Cathedral, both of which will have midnight mass on Christmas Eve.

The Albion
31 Jalan Berangan, Changkat Bukit Bintang
T: (03) 2141 9282

The Actors Studio @ Lot 10
Roof Top, Level 8, Lot 10 Shopping Centre, 50 Jalan Sultan Ismail, Bukit Bintang
T: (03) 2144 2009 (enquiries); (03) 2142 2009 (box office)

Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre
Sentul Park, Jalan Strachan, Kuala Lumpur
T: (03) 4047 9010 (enquiries); (03) 4047 9000 (box office)

La Bodega Lounge
18-1 Jalan Telawi 2, Bangsar Baru
T: (03) 2287 3808

St Mary’s Anglican Cathedral
Jalan Raja, corner of Merdeka Square
Tel: (03) 2694 5470,

St John’s Catholic Cathedral
5 Jalan Bukit Nanas
T: (03) 2078 1876,

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