If cooking isn’t your thing, there are many places in Penang where you can enjoy Christmas without the hassle.

ONE of the nicest things about living in Malaysia (apart from the weather and food, of course) is – because of our multicultural society – the way we are able to “spread out” the various festivities throughout the year.

Take today for example. In the west, Christmas is the culmination of 12 months of hard work, with perhaps just the summer holidays as temporary respite, so the December celebrations are, for many, the highlight of the entire year. However, on Christmas Day itself, everything’s either shut, or if you can get somewhere prepared to let you in, it will probably cost you two arms and four legs.

And unless you have organised everything with the precision of a chronograph and done all your food shopping way in advance – but not too early either – you’ll end up charging around a packed supermarket, staring unhappily into empty chillers devoid of turkeys, frozen or otherwise, and fighting with 10 other equally disorganised housewives over the last bag of limp Brussels sprouts.

That’s assuming that you can get parking in the first place, of course, because the queue to get into the car park will probably have snaked back at least half a mile. And once you get home, you’ll probably end up Chief Cook and Bottle Washer, trying to put up the tree, hang the tinsel and mistletoe, wrap the turkey and stuff the last-minute present for Great Aunt Ethel all at the same time.

That’s why we are so lucky here. Up and down the country, our shopping malls and complexes will still be open so no worries if you forgot either aforementioned present for Great Aunt Ethel or Brussels sprouts; they will be laying on Christmas carollers to make your shopping experience more enjoyable.

Our many hostelries and eateries too have geared up to entice us to take it easy and get us off our feet to enjoy a stress-free Christmas Day! They have done all the hard work, the preparation and cooking, and all you have to do is show up and partake of the feast they have put together, and at quite reasonable prices too.

Penang will have its fair share of offerings, far too many to mention of course, but here are a few to consider. All around the island, there will be buffets galore at practically every hotel and western restaurant, offering turkey cooked in myriad ways, and all the traditional trimmings to go with it: different flavoured stuffings and gravies, together with floury roast potatoes, not to mention the requisite Brussels sprouts. Popular Christmas desserts include a host of sweet fruity cakes, heavy with raisins and mixed crystallised fruit, German stöllen, steamed dark black puddings and crusty minced pies, all delish with lashings of thick cream.

68CA654B8533432C9BAA0DAE3D1D44E1  At Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa, you can enjoy its newly-introduced Joget High Tea while the Red Kebaya dancers entertain.

 

There’s a lot happening near the beaches of Batu Ferringhi and Tanjung Bungah. Rock on down to the Hard Rock Hotel where Santa will be arriving on his bike with his Santarinas at noon today to give candy to children (and the young at heart, I hope). You’ll also be able to meet Santa at the Paradise Sandy Beach Resort, and at the Parkroyal Penang, kids who bring their parents to lunch at the award-winning Tamarind Brasserie’s Christmas Buffet will get a surprise: a visit from their gift-bearing clown.

All dressed up and nowhere to go? Then head for the Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa, where Chef David Pooley will be serving up a Christmas Gourmet Set Dinner tonight at the swanky Feringgi Grill. If you fancy something with a local flavour, how about trying out the first of their newly-introduced fortnightly Joget High Tea, complete with Teruna and Dara (youth and maiden) band to showcase this traditional Malay dance which apparently originated from Malacca.

Difficult to imagine a white Christmas in this heat, but that’s what you’ll apparently find at Straits Quay, where together with carol singers and Santa Claus – the poor guy is going to have to be in many places at one time – you’ll find a range of different Christmas offerings from Fish ’n Chips at Blue Reef to German at Weissbräu.

Here’s a unique opportunity to eat and win some prizes: celebrate Gurney Plaza’s 10th Anniversary & Christmas by just spending RM100 or more at any of their F&B outlets and you might win some great gifts, whilst over on the other side of the island, in addition to traditional Yuletide favourites, Eastin Hotel will be celebrating with Santa Teddy, Humpty Dumpty, and an eco-friendly Christmas Tree made from 500 presumably empty mineral water bottles. Across on the mainland, Juru Autocity has lined up a “Teen Idol Competition” on the main stage together with various F&B promotions.

Wherever or however you choose to spend today, do have a wonderful, safe time. A Merry Christmas, and here’s to a fantastic 2012. Now, I hope you’ll excuse me while I find my turkey baster, and where on earth did I put last year’s unwanted presents?

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