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Review

 


Children without Christmas

For four years they have watched Christmas flicker by. They have waited for the plastic Santa's waving in the winds to come and touch them.

 

More Review Articles...

 

Eternity touched time

 

Healing touch from Healing Island

 

Giving is receiving

 

Chocolate fountains, a novel concept

 

From Britain with love...

 

Celebrating Real Women

 

  Fashion

 

 

 HUMOUR

 

 Scene & Heard

But though Santa never came, these little refugees of the tsunami continue to expect him, their bare bodies shivering in the cold, their eyes tearing with the pangs of hunger, they sit in their muddy surroundings, awaiting a Merry Christmas.

By Ranee Mohamed

Karmanthapura on the Galle Road in Ratmalana is an estab lished tsunami refugee camp. A few months ago there was anguish here when news reached the refugees that they will soon be evicted from these garish premises.

For four years they have remained here, over one hundred families with 89 children. Today, only a handful of children go to school. "Sending our children to school is no easy task. We have lost everything to the tsunami and today we have no means of living. We have been reduced to the status of refugees and there is no one to help us. We have to fend for our living," said the women who gathered around us on this rainy Tuesday in December.

This is a hell hole in the middle of the city. It is hard to believe that the powers-that-be have allowed this camp housing the tsunami refugees to deteriorate this way.

This broken, blackened building is like the right wing of hell. With the toilets overflowing and no means of disposing their garbage the place gives a stench that goes well with what meets the eye.

"The drains and all the empty spaces are clogged with water. Our children are ill every day. There is the threat of dengue but no one cares what happens to our children," said the women whose eyes were filled with fear and tears.

Shiromi is a mother of three little children. She is pregnant again and hungry too. "We have barely enough to feed our children and now with this unexpected pregnancy I have no other alternative but to starve and ensure that all the little mouths in my family are fed at least once a day," she said in tears.

Asanka (22) has two children and no source of income. Manel (30) has three children and no money coming to her hand. Lalani (25) is in a more pathetic state. She tells me: "I have no basin to bathe my six month old baby in. I have no clothes for my baby. I have no soap and no money to buy even a comb for my baby. My husband met with an accident and now a part of his head is injured. I have to look after him, but I have no money," she cries.

Not even half a loaf

The lives of the women in Karmanthapura is sad. They want to give the best to their children, but even though they live but a few kilometres away from the commercial capital, they have no money to buy a loaf of bread.

"We have heard that some houses have been allocated to us, but they are not giving it to us," said these people helplessly.

They spoke with gratitude of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). "The ICRC invited us all to Palm Beach Hotel and gave us gifts and food. We were so happy that we tried to go there dressed in our best clothes, but sadly even our best clothes appeared old and tattered. That was the first time we were treated as human beings," said these poor people. They also spoke with great regard of a foreigner who visited them and gave them Rs.2,500 each.

There were times when people used to visit them and give them food and dry rations. But now, with three years gone by, the tsunami is an old disaster. Today there is no one to give these poor people a helping hand. If a child is ill or if an adult is dying, there is no way that they can get any assistance.

There are four families here who have originally been living on rent. But the waves of the tsunami did not differentiate them. "We lost everything just like the others. Infact we were worse off because we were living in rented houses. Now we are told that we will not be given houses because we were living in rented houses," said these women in desperation.

Further tragedy

Here in these sordid surroundings live people who have met with accidents. They endure the double pain of maimed limbs and wounds and intolerable living conditions. There is a woman suffering great pain because a part of this building wall fell on her. But there is no compensation coming her way, no court case in search of justice.

There are also men and women afflicted with cancer, mental depression, fevers, cough, viral flu, and there are also special children. But there is no special treatment for any of them. In fact, they have barely had a proper meal in weeks.

It is hard to believe that we can treat a section of our very own fellow beings this way - leave them to despair, starve and cry while we make merry.

No tsunami funds

It is even harder to believe that none of the tsunami funds have yet not reached them. Except for a few packets of cooked rice and some dry rations, these refugees have got nothing. And their abodes say it all. This building which might fall apart at any time is divided with cardboard and old sarees to partition each family unit. It is suffocating inside and fresh air is scarce in here.

"People find fault with us for not sending our children to school. How can we send our children to school when we don't have a means of making a cup of tea? How can we send our children to school when they don't have uniforms, books, bags and food in their stomachs. Some people give them books and a bag and ask us to send them to school. Anyone with children will know that children need more than books and a bag to study," lamented the mothers.

Expecting Santa

Meanwhile, the children were huddled together. Their childhood allowed them to be happy even in these murky surroundings. "We are expecting Santa Claus," they said. "And we expect that he will bring us many gifts," they added.

These are little ones who have never eaten rich cake, yule log or breudher. They have never hung a stocking for they do not even own a pair of socks. Yet they say they have faith in God and that they will start Christmas Eve with a prayer. For many of these refugees of the tsunami are people who are in the way of the cross - they have been, and they continue to be. Yet their prayers have gone unanswered.

Shehan (8) wants balloons from Santa, and Kasun Kalpa (9) wanted Santa to only pay them a visit. Dinesh Kumara (12) wants a Christmas tree and Dilip Kumara (7) wants balloons too. The girls wanted dolls and the boys wanted any gift that Santa can bring. They were too scared to ask, lest Santa did not want to come.

The little ones had persuaded their poor parents to put up a small manger and place baby Jesus in it. But unfortunately they have no bulbs for this manger. They say that Jesus is with the poor. If so, Jesus then will surely light up their lives.

Christmas is about giving, that is why we can all expect Christmas to touch the lives of these poor suffering men, women and children in a way that they never thought possible. Giving brings us all greater joy than receiving, and giving to these refugees of the tsunami and seeing their eyes light up with happiness will illuminate our lives with a greater shine than all the city lights that sparkle.

 


Eternity touched time

By Lakshman de Silva

Christmas is the season of the profession of faith - every where and to everybody, by overt signs and utterances, prayers and songs so that the whole world may know that the twenty fifth of December in the birthday of Jesus Christ, God and Man.

He was born of the Immaculate Virgin Mary. She was 14 years old when she conceived her divine child. She was 15 when she bore him into the world, at Bethlehem.

She is Virgin, Queen and Mother of God.

I'll sing a hymn to Mary

The Mother of my God

The Virgin of all Virgins

Of David's royal blood

O teach me, Holy Mary

A loving song to frame

When wicked men blaspheme thee

I'll love and bless thy name

 

O lily of the valley

O mystic rose, what tree

Or flower, e'en the fairest,

Is half so fair as thee

O let me though so lowly

Recite my mother's fame

When wicked men blaspheme these

I'll love and bless thy name

She is the woman spoken of in the Book Of Genesis, when God spoke to the devil: 'I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shall lie in wait for her heel.'

Fear of Mary

The devil, also known as Lucifer began to fear Mary the moment she was conceived.

Women are the crucial points in all that has occurred in the human family from the beginning of time.

The fall of man came from his being given a forbidden fruit to eat by the first woman whose name was Eve.

The redemption of man comes from him being given an unforbidden fruit to eat - the body and blood of Jesus by a woman whose name is Mary. Jesus' body was made from the flesh and blood of Mary. Here eternity touched time when God became man.

The stable of Bethlehem is the little delivery room where the eyes of the world are focused during Christmas tide. Here Jesus lay, wrapped in silence on Christmas night in a cattle stable. Mary and Joseph adoringly gazed at him.

First visitors

The three immediate groups of visitors who came to visit Jesus at his birth were angels in the sky who sang songs, and shepherds on the hills who came to see him, followed by three wise men from the East who brought gifts.

So it was before this innocence of the angels, simplicity of shepherds and the royalty of kings, that his mother wrapped and re-wrapped him to keep him warm in the cold night. Here the lambs bleated, the ox quietly bellowed, and the calf mooed as the infant lay in the manger.

The crib

St. Francis of Assisi, the little poor man of God built a Christmas crib in the year 1223. Today this Christmas crib set up in homes and churches are accurate pictures of what Bethlehem looked like when Baby Jesus was in the straw.

Thirty three years later this straw will give way to a cross. This cross would be more home to him than the straw for by it the redemption to save man out of love would be accomplished. Bethlehem and Calvary are the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega of the Faith.

 


Healing touch from Healing Island

A Sri Lankan based cottage industry established 10 years ago, Healing Island - Fired Earth is made up of a small (local) staff which is multi ethnic, and manufactures a range of herbal and holistic wellness spa products and accessories.

The nature based packaging materials are sourced from many provinces and provides part-time employment to rural women and women who were affected by the tsunami three years ago.

These women have rebuilt their lives by engaging is traditional weaving skills although they have had virtually no assistance from the local government authorities.

While working for Healing Island - Fired Earth, these women take care of their families and earn a regular income. The natural sustainable materials they use for Healing Island - Fired Earth packaging is available in areas close to their homes.

Healing Island - Fired Earth spa and herbal products are retailed under the Healing Island brand.

They contain no animal ingredients whatsoever and are not tested on animals.

The massage and body oils contain no preservatives. No artificial colours are used in the products and the base oils are derived from nuts and seeds.

Most of Healing Island - Fired Earth oils are based on traditional Sri Lankan ayurvedic recipes and use natural ingredients harvested in village gardens in Sri Lanka. These formulas have been used for centuries for body and hair care. Healing Island - Fired Earth make small batches of all items to ensure that the products are fresh.

The extensive aromatherapy oil products use only the finest essential oils, some of which are sourced from overseas. All products are packed by hand, including the printing of labels and the blending of fragrances.

Now available under its own branding in the UK and Malaysia, Healing Island - Fired Earth in Sri Lanka is retailed at ODEL Unlimited, and is used in all the spas of one of Sri Lanka's renowned hotel chains. They are also used in spas in the Maldives.

The product profile:

 Hand poured and fragranced candles

 Spa and wellness products including a wide range of massage oils and fragrances

 Body wraps and face packs

 Body crŠmes with aromatherapy oils and natural ingredients

 Hand made soaps, bath salts and gel, bubble bath and bath crystals

 Incense, pot pourri and accessories

 Nature based photo frames and gifts

 Yoga pillows, hand woven bags and baskets

 


Giving is receiving

It was the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. Ranatunga Karunananda from Ceylon was among the 29 athletes from 17 nations who had entered the men's 10,000 metres.

As the race progressed, Karunananda was so far behind, that he was soon overtaken by the leading athletes - again and again.

When Billy Mills of United States, followed by the host of leading athletes, touched the tape, Karunananda too, was among the throng.

The leading athletes stopped, but Karunananda continued to run. He was just ignored by the spectators who were on their feet to cheer the winner.

Karunananda completed the round and did not stop but continued to run. This time the spectators started to laugh at the pathetic soul, who was running alone.

Karunananda completed that round and started to run his last round. The spectators had never seen anything like this before.

This time tens of thousands of people were on their feet, cheering the great athlete along.

Karunananda finished last in the race. But the strength of character displayed by him, won the hearts and minds of the whole world.

Marion Jones won every race that she ran. She was the undisputed queen of athletics.

The whole world was on its feet cheering Marion Jones when she ran. And then, she was exposed for having taken banned drugs.

The lack of strength of character displayed by her, brought her down. It was the ultimate disgrace for an athlete.

Two ascetics

Narada, the great rishi was on his way to Vaikuntha, the abode of the gods.

As he walked past  a humble hut, an ascetic who was meditating saw him and asked where he was going in such a hurry. Narada replied that he was on his way to meet Indra, the king of the gods.

The ascetic asked for a favour. He wanted Narada to find out from Indra how many more rebirths were in store for him before he attained nirvana.

Narada agreed to do so and walked on. As he passed another hut uphill, he met a second ascetic who also made the same request. 

On meeting Indra, Narada found out that the first ascetic who was very virtuous and dedicated was on his last birth on the human realm while the second had an innumerable number of rebirths before attaining nirvana.

A few days later, the second ascetic saw Narada coming down the hill and ran to find out the answer. Mischievous Narada told him that this was his last birth on earth and went on. The ascetic was stunned by the answer.

He told the virtuous one that the number of rebirths that he would encounter would be equal to the number of leaves in the Tamarind tree beside his hut.

Instead of being frustrated, the virtuous one was overjoyed with the answer. He said 'Now I know that I have only a finite number of rebirths' and asked for permission from Narada to go  back to his meditation.

As Narada was getting up to go, the second ascetic came running downhill. He had shaved off his hair and the beard and said 'if this is my last birth on earth, I have to enjoy life' as he rushed by.

Two seas

The water in the Dead Sea is so dense, that a person would not sink in it. Nothing would grow and no fish or any other living being can survive in it.

It befits the name given to it perfectly.

On the other hand the Sea of Galilee, which is relatively nearby is thriving with life. People from near and far come to enjoy the scenic beauty of the beach and the richness of life in the holiday resorts.

Both seas are not only in the same geographical area but are also being fed by the same river - River Jordan.

Why is one rich and the other dead?

The Dead Sea  takes in the water from river Jordan and keeps it to itself - no outlet.

Sea of Galilee takes in the water and allows it to flow out.

Giving is receiving

- Somabandhu Kodikara

 


Chocolate fountains, a novel concept


Ramani and Tara

By Risidra Mendis

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have many layers of rich creamy chocolate cascading down a fountain at your next important event? The smell of rich creamy chocolate in the air and its rich taste as it touches your lips would always remain an unforgettable experience for those of you who have taken a dip in a chocolate fountain.

Chocolate has always been a favourite among people of all ages. Be it puddings, cakes, drinks or sauces; chocolate continues to be one of the most popular food products around the world. Dark, white and milk chocolate are freely available in the market. However the thrill and excitement of dipping a scrumptious strawberry, a cream bun or even a marshmallow in dripping fresh chocolate would only be possible if you have a cascading chocolate fountain.

Lately, chocolate fountains have become popular in Sri Lanka and one person, Tara Gunawardana, a business and management graduate from the United Kingdom, has much to do with it.

Novel concept

The popularity of chocolate fountains in the UK gave Tara the idea of popularising this novel concept in Sri Lanka as well. Chocolate fountains made their way to Sri Lanka in November 1996. Ironically it was at Tara's engagement that the first chocolate fountain was introduced in the country.

"The introduction of the first chocolate fountain went off very well. We had many inquiries about these fountains. Friends and relatives at Tara's engagement wanted us to create chocolate fountains at their important events as well. The popularity of chocolate fountains continued to grow not by advertising but by word of mouth," Tara's  mother Ramani said.

Heavy demand

It is just over an year since Tara and Ramani together with Ravini (Tara's sister) went in to the chocolate fountain business. They have created around 15 fountains to date and say the demand is on the increase.

"I come from a business related background especially in the hotel and tourism industry. Chocolate fountains are buffet enhancement products that bring elegance and unforgettable charm to the event as well as the guests. Chocolate fountains have become a popular and a 'must have' item at weddings and parties, as it gives instantaneous glamour and grandeur to the function," says Tara.

A chocolate fountain can best be described as a device for serving chocolate fondue. Typical examples resemble a stepped cone, standing two to four feet tall with a crown at the top and stacked tiers over a basin at the bottom. The basin is heated to keep the chocolate in a liquid state so it can be pulled into a centre cylinder then vertically transported to the top of the fountain by a corkscrew auger.

From there it flows over the tiers creating a chocolate 'waterfall' in which food items like strawberries or marshmallows can be dipped. Few chocolate fountains are capable of melting chocolate directly in the basin; so chocolate is typically melted in a microwave or double boiler before being poured it into the fountain.

Many flavours

"I use Belgian chocolate because I want to maintain a high standard. However if a customer wants local chocolate for the fountain I can accommodate that request. Depending on the customer's request we can make a dark, milk or white chocolate fountain. We can accommodate strawberry, orange, honey, caramel, lemon, banana or even cappuccino flavours. The dips such as strawberries, grapes, cherries, pineapples, kisses, marshmallows, cream buns, mini doughnuts, mini chocolate eclairs and cookies among others are provided by us," Ramani explained.

Ramani added that the height of a chocolate fountain differs from 1  feet to 3  feet depending on the number of guests. "I have to use about six to seven kilos of chocolate for a big fountain and around four to five kilos for a small one," Ramani said.

Chocolate fountains are ideal for weddings, anniversaries, parties (adults and children), get togethers, club openings, corporate events and special functions.

"If we have taken an order for a wedding we can match the table dcor and candles according to the colour of the bride's attire," Ramani explained.

History

Chocolate fountains were first made popular by a Canadian company called Design and Realisation. But that popularity was relatively mild until Buffet Enhancements and Sephra stepped into the marketplace and made the product more visible.

When chocolate fountains were first introduced the market was entirely commercial. Chocolate fountains cost thousands of dollars and required significant upkeep. The popularity of chocolate fountains gradually grew to a point of demand at a consumer retail level.

At the end of 2004, the Hellmann Group began marketing the Nostalgia Chocolate Fountain for personal use. Sephra then followed by introducing home chocolate fountains in 2005.

As a result, the catering industry saw more requests for chocolate fountains at events. Flavoring oils such as mint, orange, and cappuccino were developed to give the chocolate extra pizzazz.

Caterers began adding food colouring to white chocolate to make it coincide with special holidays or events. Caterers and home users also created special recipes for a variety of fondues that would flow well in a fountain. Some of the more popular recipes included caramel, cheese, maple syrup, ranch dressing and BBQ sauce. Due to the growing practice of using chocolate fountains for other types of fondue, chocolate fountains became interchangeably referred to as "fondue fountains."

 


From Britain with love...

Opened on December 15, Hampton Village Sri Lanka, is the brainchild of Dr. Upali Wickremasekera, a Sri Lankan medical doctor residing in Hampton, UK. 

Hampton Village Sri Lanka consists of 50 houses and is built at Ahangama, Galle for victims of the tsunami disaster out of donations from the British public. The donations came from a wide range of people, from six-year-old school children, to 96-year-old pensioners.

Speaking to The Sunday Leader, Wickremasekera said that the cost of building the village is estimated at Rs. 100 million.

Wickremasekera said, "The tsunami tragedy had a terrible impact on my life. I felt a deep sense of feeling for the poor who had lost everything including family members. Building Hampton Village Sri Lanka was a dream, a vision and now that dream is a reality."

Wickremasekera's dream to contribute something to the natives of the land of his birth, has been extraordinary to say the least.

But the charity project is not a typical hand out.

Talking about the project, Wickremasekera said, "These are not just houses but a village with 50 houses. I have been living in Hampton for 35 years. So what I wanted to do was to build a similar Hampton England in Sri Lanka. The houses are for middle class people like teachers, nurses, government officers, police officers who cannot beg or borrow to make a living. These people also have to provide an education to their children but at the same time are struggling to live without a proper roof over their heads," he said.

Each house consists of two bed rooms with a ground area of 580 square feet with and an attached bathroom, water and electricity. A community centre to accommodate 250 which can also be used as a pre-school has been built.

He said deserving people from the lower middle class groups have been allocated these houses. The occupants have undertaken to manage the entire village and have appointed a council with a president, secretary and treasurer for the governance of the estate. "We have also allocated one house for the donors to come down here and spend a week here to see the village," Wickremasekera said. 

Dr. Wickremasekera said that they will monitor their performance and ensure that it is being properly maintained. "We will ensure that cultural ties are established when children from top schools in England visit the village for short periods. Our second dream is to see that children from this village attend British schools and enter Oxford or Cambridge University."

Meanwhile the world's first monument in the shape of a gigantic wave has been built in the estate to commemorate the 300,000 plus persons in South East Asia who lost their lives in the tsunami tragedy.

 


Celebrating Real Women


Minoli Ratnayake and (Inset) Shyamalee Tudawe

For the first time in the history of fashion in Sri Lanka, Cotton Collection reveals the `Real Woman' - a woman of substance, a multiple role player, adept at multi tasking and is secure in her own `skin.' All three Sri Lankan women identified post a survey conducted, will be the face of the new communication strategy launched by Cotton Collection this season. This week, Cotton Collection, Managing Director, Niloufer Anverally speaks to The Sunday Leader about the campaign and what's in store for the future.

Q: How did Cotton Collection start out?

A: Cotton Collection came into being 15 years ago when I started selling garments from my home as a hobby. I wanted to do something on my own,  and loving fashion, I opened up the first Cotton Collection store in Majestic City. We then went on to open our flagship store at Flower Road, and then opened up a much larger store in the new wing of Majestic City. In order to strengthen its brand image, Cotton Collection, very recently opened a store at the Colombo Hilton.

Q: Are you into exporting?

A: Yes, we do sell stocklots mostly to the Maldives and the Middle East. Since our inception we have witnessed the growth of not only our brand, but also our business. From the initial staff of five, we now employ more than 80. In addition, we provide indirect employment to more than 500. Our product mix contains more than 750 different items, with a majority of them sourced locally, and the rest imported. We work with more than 300 suppliers, and about 40 factories.

Q: And you also manufacture your own brand?

A: Yes, it's called COCO and it's picked up very strongly. We are very selective about who we manufacture for and what we manufacture. COCOis all about the latest cool, casual fashion trends and we maintain a very high quality in this line of clothing. Our merchandisers are geared for what customers want and we strive to deliver clothing of  the highest quality, which represent the latest trends in fashion at an affordable price. Hence, we boast a fashion conscious loyal customer base who are well tuned into international trends.

Q: How do you cope with the competition from boutique stores in Colombo?

A: We have a  loyal clientele who keep coming back. Our customer base is very fashion driven and very discerning, and as far as we stay on top in the fashion arena, we are able to maintain and grow our client base.

Q: What sets Cotton Collection apart from other clothing chains in Colombo?

A: Cotton Collection is very focused on the product range that it stocks. We are  also very quality conscious, and being a fashion driven store, our customers find shopping easy and quick. Today's woman is always on a tight time frame and they like shopping with us, as they are sure to find what they want in the store.

Q: Tell us about the Real Woman campaign?

A: It's all about celebrating women. Women are very special, and are more often than not taken for granted. This campaign is all about touchingthe core of every women and making her feel good.

Minoli Ratnayake, Shyamalee Tudawe and Anitra Pieris will become the new faces of Cotton Collection, undertaking the challenging but exciting task of revealing that femininity, strength, power, beauty and individuality they all process in abundance. None of the these three women is the stereotypical woman who conforms to diktats of society, but rather women who have conceptualised and carved a niche for themselves, who have their own individual style and believe in simply being themselves.

Q: Are thereany new designs out for this campaign?

A: Well, we have new designs and collections coming out all the time, and this season we have a new range for Christmas. There is Real Women merchandise on sale as well as a fabulous range of locally inspired t- shirts which are great for gift giving.

Q: Why did you pick Minoli, Anitra and Shyamalee?

A: We wanted women who are wives, mothers, career women and professionals. Women who push  boundaries to achieve their goals, women  who are independent thinkers, intelligent, beautiful, spirited and  who are comfortable in their own skin. Women who are passionate about life and living it to the full and to top it all, women who possess  that inner core of femininity. now that's a  tall order.

We also wanted three women who all women can relate to and who are well known in society. The Real Women campaign will continue in essence but to launch this campaign we used Shyamalee, who is a hard working, incredibly intelligent woman who has achieved a lot in her life. She edits a magazine, she's a mother and a wife and she's managed to juggle these things fantastically. Anitra too is career driven and a family woman. Unlike most women, she didn't give up her life when she had kids. She still models and continues to live the life that she loves.

 Minoli on the other hand is single, fun loving, an absolute joy to be around and hard working as well. She is the editor of three magazines and she manages to maintain her fabulous looks despite her busy schedule. All three of these womenare very special and very true to themselves.

Q: So in a nutshell, how would you define a 'Real Woman?'

A: She's strong, she's powerful, she's non-conformist and she's her own woman. She has attitude, she has charisma and she takes no nonsense from anyone. But through it all she exudes a femininity and beauty that's unique and distinctive, epitomising her own individual style.

Q: How have sales been this season?

A: Sales have been very good during the season all things considered. There was a drop in the beginning of the year. I'd put that down to the escalating cost of living, political uncertainty and  a lack of tourists.

Q: Future plans?

A: We will be merging Cotton and Leather Collection and giving the customer more choice and ambience  under one roof. So look forward to that.

 


Christmas is here again

So, it's Christmas! From what I can see, the silly geese have definitely got fat. So have I, for that matter, but then, I do hope I'm not in the silly goose category. The partying is going on, so one has to go with the flow. All these delicious and delectable delicacies cannot be resisted. Somehow, the exhilarating feeling is definitely missing.

I mean, even the Christmas cake ingredients are almost double in price. Christmas has become so commercialised, people forget that it is supposed to be a celebration of the birth of Christ. So goodwill towards mankind is sometimes put aside, whilst the partying and all the outward artificial trappings are very much in evidence.

The Christmas tree is of the evergreen family, i.e. green the year through. This is supposed to symbolise the eternal life offered to Christians through faith in Christ. The top of the tree points upwards towards heaven, where Christians strive to go.

Star of Bethlehem

The star atop the tree signifies the Star of Bethlehem, that led the three kings to the stable where Christ was born. The lights represent the Light of the World, Christ. Gifts represent God's gift of His Son to us. This is supposed to be a season of hope, love, joy and peace.

Christmas trees were supposed to have originated in Germany. A British monk was preaching a sermon on the Birth of Christ to a group of Germanic Druids. To prove to them that the oak tree was not sacred and inviolable, he felled one nearby. It crushed all shrubs in its path except for a fir sapling. The monk, trying to convert some of the people, declared that a miracle had taken place. He said, "Let this tree be called the tree of the Christ Child."

 First only fir saplings were planted during Christmas. Later on, they were cut down and taken into homes and decorated. Some of the first known ornaments were roses of coloured paper, apples, wafers, candles and gilt articles. Other Christmas traditions we have inherited from Germany are advent calendars, gingerbread houses and Christmas cookies.

Blood of Christ

Red and white striped candy canes form the letter "J" so we are reminded of Jesus. The white stripe represents purity and the red the blood of Christ shed for all mankind. Some say it represents the staff of the Good Shepherd. The hard candy that it is made of signifies the firmness of the foundation of the church, like a solid rock.

There is a German legend that stated that along with the ornaments on the tree, a pickled gherkin was added on. The first child to find the gherkin was given an extra gift left by St. Nicholas. This tradition helped the children to appreciate the tree first, rather than rush to open the gifts. St. Nicholas was the patron saint of children, who used to leave them gifts on his feast day, of fruit, nuts, wood and clay figures. Later on in time, he came to be known as Santa Claus.

There is a Czech legend that spoke of a poor woman who could not afford decorations for her Christmas tree. A spider had made its home in the tree and spun cobwebs on the branches. When the woman awoke on Christmas morning, the sunlight was falling on the cobwebs, making them glitter like silver. So she had a beautiful tree after all, thanks to the spider.

Beautiful flowers

A Mexican legend tells of a boy who had no gift to put by the figure of Baby Jesus in church on Christmas Eve. On his way to church, he heard an angel tell him to pick some dried weeds to place in church. As he laid them down, they turned into beautiful flowers. The first American Ambassador in Mexico took back a plant to the USA. His name was Dr. Poinsett, and the plant was called Poinsettia.

Germans considered the mushroom to be a good luck charm. If one found a mushroom, it meant that good luck was round the corner. Mushroom ornaments were displayed on Christmas trees to show recognition of the beauty of nature, and were supposed to bring good luck for the New Year.

In Europe, pine cones were used as decorations as they were available in abundance in the forest. It symbolised eternity. Later on, glass blowers produced them as glass ornaments. I hope you are now steeped in new Christmas information. Happy Christmas, peace and goodwill to all!

- Honky Tonk WomanChristmas is here again

 


A day out at the Colombo Golf Club

Fore!" comes the cry and I duck into a crouch. The dawn has broken on a lazy Thursday morning and by all rights I should be in bed. But instead I am here.

"Shall we return the compliment?" The tongue in cheek retort comes from a friend of my father's. He and his golfing buddies have agreed to show my friend and I around the course of the Royal Colombo Golf Club.

Fresh air

"The city needs lungs," one of them told us earlier.

The golf course runs on 99 year leases and apparently the principal of a school next door has had his eye on the club's acres for a while. Renewal of the current lease is scheduled to happen in a few years' time.

Golf courses in general have a bad reputation with most people who see them as giant lawns with heavy impacts on water supplies. But unlike other golf courses in the middle of desert areas or in fragile borderland habitats where water can become an issue, this one is in the tropics - where it rains a lot - often enough to water the turf, the trees and fill the water hazards.

Hazards

One of these hazards on the tenth or eleventh hole was pointed out to me. It's a natural reserve within the golf course and no one is allowed to touch it.

Golf balls sink in there never to be seen again. It is home to all sorts of birds and reptiles and snakes - only the ducks were in evidence when we got there though.

But directly opposite it is another water hazard, similar but different. This one is just as important being connected to the first but it has an outlet drain coming into it. Through this drain comes all the waste from the hospital next door.

Violation

By law it is supposed to be treated by the hospital prior to being discharged into the water but it isn't, and raw waste pours out into the water and leaves a filmy scum on top, contaminating it.

The golf balls that fall in here are left not because of the protection required for it but because it really has become a hazard to any living thing that ventures near it.

Feel strongly

The atmosphere is rather sad and dampened for a few minutes after this. The golfers are mad. They are competitive, they are jovial and crack jokes all the time and they enjoy psyching each other out on the course and off, but they also feel strongly about such things.

Part of why they enjoy playing here is because of what the course has to offer not just in terms of a game or membership but in terms of their surroundings. And they are obsessed enough to play on even through a thunderstorm.

The height of their obsession is such that there are waterproof caps for sale for just such an event. My father has one.

First task for the day

As if to prove my point, the heavens opened on the eighteenth hole and tourists and members alike opted to play on in a kind of Wodehousian fervour while those who had finished dashed inside the clubhouse to drinks.

There are people playing a game in the early morning before they have a shower and breakfast and head off to work.

What is it about the game that makes them so obsessed  about it? It must be something about the stress relief you get when you hit a golf ball with a club.

Most of the people here are doctors, lawyers, bankers, businessmen and even some politicians and government employees. It sort of makes sense.

Rugby and football require you to be very fit and fast as does cricket. Cricket in particular is confrontational - who wants to have a cricket ball constantly flying in your face all the time when you want to relax? Especially when you can take a break during the game at any time to have a drink in the clubhouse and someone else has to carry your bag or equipment for you?

Second oldest

The clubhouse was started in 1879 and outside of Great Britain it is the second oldest 'Royal' club in the world, surpassed only by the equivalent in Calcutta.

People who are members feel powerful, important, feel like they are part of history. "Going all colonial" as a friend put it. They can sit in the clubhouse and drink from sun up to sundown. They can order food, get massages, talk shop and network.

Plans for morrow

The game is over, the drinks have arrived and people are now discussing whether anyone wants to get up early the next day to play.

 Personally I think they are mad but then I think of how pretty this place is, how peaceful and how perhaps it isn't such a bad place to be mad in.

Then I remember that I have blisters from walking the golf course in tight sneakers and I cannot be bothered with this anymore and head for home to put my feet up.

- Marisa Wikramanayaka

 


HUMOUR

Unfair...

Why is Christmas just like a day at the office?

You do all the work and the fat guy with the suit gets all the credit. 

Smart reply

What did Adam say on the day before Christmas?

'It's Christmas, Eve!' 

Christmas post

A woman went into a post office to buy some stamps for her Christmas cards. "What denomination do you want?" asked the lady at the counter. "Good God!" she replied, "Has it come to this?" I suppose you'd better give me 20 Catholic and 20 Presbyterian. 

Talk turkey

Who is not hungry at Christmas?

The turkey.

He's already stuffed! 

Scarce breed

An honest politician, a kind lawyer and Santa Claus were walking down the street and saw a $20 bill. Which one picked it up?

Santa.The other two don't exist.  

Not very kind

Woman: "What would you give to the man who has everything?"

Assistant: "Penicillin?" 

Wise answer

The Christmas Scene with three wise men is one among the various popular Christmas jokes. A small town manifested a "Nativity Scene" that showed great skill and talent. One small feature looked really strange. The three wise men were wearing firemen's helmets. When questioned, a lady jerked her Bible from behind the counter and ruffled through some pages. She pointed her finger at a passage and said: "The three wise man came from afar."  

Down to earth humour

Three men died in a car accident on Christmas Eve. They met together at the Pearly Gates waiting to enter Heaven. It was a norm to present something associated with Christmas at the entrance. The first man searched his pocket, and found some mistletoe. He gifted it as a Christmas present. The second man offered a cracker and he was also allowed in. The third man pulled out a pair of stockings. Confused at this last gesture, St. Peter asked, "How do these represent Christmas?" "They're Carol's," was the reply."

 


Scene & Heard

Starlit night

All roads lead to Ingiriya this evening (23) when at 5 p.m. on the open air grounds opposite Christ Church, Ingiriya (on the Ratnapura-Panadura 450 bus route, adjacent to the hospital) when the best of Sinhala pop will fill the air. Rajiv & The Clan will perform and accompany superstars that include Ronnie Leitch, Indrani Perera and Rajiv Sebastian. The compere will be the evergreen Vijaya Corea.This will be a unique opportunity to savour top star entertainment sans the cost of a ticket. The eventamplifies the adage:"The best things in life are free." 

NDI awards ceremony

The Awards Ceremony of the Political Leadership Development Certificate Course, conducted by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) was held at the Lighthouse Hotel, Galle recently. USAID Mission Head, Rebecca Cohn was the chief guest. Bradman Weerakoon,  UN Consultant delivered the keynote address.

Political party representatives who successfully completed the course were awarded certificates at the ceremony in the presence of Southern Province Governor, Kumari Balasuriya. Members of parliament and political party representatives attended the event.

This pilot programme introduced by NDI on Political Leadership Development commenced in January and was conducted in the Southern Province with the participation of over 100 political party representatives from Galle, Matara and Hambantota over a period of eight months. The programme strove to give knowledge, create awareness and develop skills on the basic concepts of good governance, electoral reform, local government, constitutional reform, human rights, conflict transformation and other topics.

The programme imparted knowledge and skills to local level political party representatives so that they may in turn enrich their individual political parties, and  serve their constituencies more effectively. The neutrality of the programme has resulted in party organisers requesting NDI to conduct party specific training programmes on the electoral process, devolution of power, good governance practices and human rights.

Over 150 steering committee meetings and training workshops were held last year. The high percentage of women participants at these programmes is significant as it is important for their voices and concerns to be heard and addressed. These women from the six districts in the south and the east reached a consensus to develop strategies to overcome the existing challenges faced by women in the course of their political activity. This would also ensure the participation of more women in the political arena in Sri Lanka.

 

 

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