One Saturday in December, we ducked into Coffee Bean for a bit before we were scheduled to carol (“Pee-purr…welcome the Young KL Singers!”) . With all the red and gold looking a lot like Christmas, the smell of spiced chai latte, Winter Wonderland ring-a-dinging over our heads, the knowledge that in ten minutes we would be off soaring on the O Come All Ye Faithful descant while wide-eyed children and their precious big blue balloons bounced and bobbed along to the music… everything – a father playfully catching the flailing arms of his gleeful curly-haired child; a mother snapping a loving portrait of her oblivious little boy sipping at his drink (undoubtedly to put it up on Instagram); the barista sincerely asking me for donations for Rumah Hope – became unexpectedly heartwarming…. The goodness of people shines through the greyness of rain and the city! The world is a beautiful place! Merry Christmas everybody, can I give you a hug?

Then another day, I was making one of our usual trips across the bridge from BNM to Sogo. Now the bridge from Sogo to BNM is a popular spot for tissue packet peddlers. I see them so often, I have unfortunately become comfortably numb. But that day with the Mary Margaret O’Hara’s despondent What Are You Doing This New Year’s Eve?/Auld Lang Syne echoing in my head, all I could think, as I plodded down the uneven steps, was; it’s the new year again. Why is the blind man STILL here, counting on the kindness of passersby who will never do anything more besides press a ringgit into his hand, or maybe deign to refuse a tissue packet if the passerby is feeling extra generous, and then continue on his or her way, gratified, only for the blind man to be forgot? Is there no other solution? Who is this man? Has he got a home? What is he thinking? If I pulled up a chair and sat right there would he talk to me?

Christmas music has that effect on me.

I realise that despite all the jolly rockin’ around the Christmas tree, Christmas songs are inherently wrought with conflict. It is often unrealistically picturesque; in this part of the world, Christmas will never come with children laughing and snowy windowpanes and rosy cheeks by a roaring fireplace. Judy Garland crooning “Make the yuleeetiiide gayyyyy” is really not gay at all; all Have Yourself a Merry Christmas reminds me is that I suck at keeping up with the faithful friends who aren’t near to me. Also there’s always the recurring theme of disappointment and longing; Christmas is supposed to be wonderful, but in fact Christmas doesn’t protect you from real life, like snatch thieves. Like in Fairytale of New York. Or I’ll Be Home for Christmas, which is about a WWII soldier abroad who dreams about going home. It’s all very melancholic, very disillusioning indeed.

But yet, among other pretty things like jumpers and roasts and cloves, Christmas music is one of the things I love the most about December. Because it is an escape, isn’t it? The same way I put up pictures of scenery I feel like diving into, Mary Poppins style, the impossibly jolly songs give me a little respite. I can pretend I’m in a snow globe, where the weather outside is frightful and the fire is delightful, and I am safe from the droning and sputtering of daily working adult life. The sad songs, on the other hand, remind me that I need to try all the harder to be happy. The family reunion may be incomplete, but taking one extra day off to be home in time to whip up a good Christmas dinner makes a difference. No Christmas atmosphere? Plan your own secret office party.

So, everyone, sweep off the proverbial dust and whip out the playlist with a jingle! Carol/ watch carollers this Saturday and Sunday AND the next! Hum every possible Christmas tune known to man as you rock your way from the office desk to the water dispenser (which, in my case, is really 5 feet or so, but you can stall enough time to hum an entire verse if you stop to enjoy the view from the pantry window)! Life is bound to be shit on some level but December isn’t half-bad.