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.
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 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
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
"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.
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
"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.
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,"
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
These women have rebuilt their lives by
engaging is traditional weaving skills
although they have had virtually no
assistance from the local government
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
"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 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.
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
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
From Britain with
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
Speaking to The Sunday Leader,
Wickremasekera said that the cost of
building the village is estimated at Rs. 100
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
Wickremasekera's dream to contribute
something to the natives of the land of his
birth, has been extraordinary to say the
But the charity project is not a typical
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
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,"
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.
Minoli Ratnayake and (Inset)
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
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
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
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
Q: Are thereany new designs out for this
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
"The city needs lungs," one of them told us
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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?
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
Why is Christmas just like a day at the
You do all the work and the fat guy with the
suit gets all the credit.
What did Adam say on the day before
'It's Christmas, Eve!'
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.
Who is not hungry at Christmas?
He's already stuffed!
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
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
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
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
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
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.