In the two millennia since his birth in Bethlehem, Jesus Christ's birthday has become a global symbol of good cheer, life, hope, new beginnings-and a stunning display of wanton consumerism.
You may have detected a certain sprinkle of cynicism about the festivities, but the Nazarene was right about several things, including "do unto others as you would have done unto you", a maxim that lends itself rather well to the Christmas ethos. Gifting something passably appropriate-mass-produced in Taiwan and hence easily found, quite ironically, at places like China Bazar-is easy. But what really counts is the thought. And the quality.
Which is why, this year, it comes as quite a pleasant surprise to find a whole goody-bag of presents made in Nepal worthy of setting under the Christmas tree. From wheels of Ilam cheese and Kakani strawberries to herbal soaps, Nepali Times scoured the Valley for things bright and beautiful. Nepali handicraft stores have long wised up to the lucre of the season. While most window displays along Kupondole are laden with tinsel, fairy lights and fake snow some have managed to bring in a genuine Nepali spin to what used to be a western festival. The new nativity set has Mary in a phariya and Baby Jesus sleeps in a kokro, minded by a yak or two.
We didn't have time enough to stuff a turkey but that will be available, with all the trimmings at better hotels and Mike's Breakfast, where the Christmas Day buffets are always gastronomically memorable. At today's frantic pace, nobody has the time to bake their own Christmas cakes, let alone let it mature for the traditional 30 days or so. Why bake when you can buy from Jawalakhel's Herman Helmer's Bakerie?
This holiday you might want to pass up the Bordeaux and try a little Nepali wine instead. Hinwa brings out a decent red and white. If the palate protests, you could always salvage it with Executive Chef Victor Holla's excellent recipe: heat the red over a low flame, throw in a quartered orange, ginger, sugar (optional), lots of cinnamon, a little clove, cardamom and a dash of lemon heated through for some heart-warming grog. If you want a little more punch (no pun) add a dash of cognac or VSOP brandy.
Having established that Christmas is definitely not about deprivation and denial (the devout save that for Lent), there is something wholesomely indulgent about Wild Earth's products. Their Tibetan aromatherapy oils in handcrafted miniature wooden chests, soap reborn as Soap Suds and other delights rival the best of Body Shop. The scented 'Hangover' herbal pillow should come in handy, especially post-holiday season.
We're not certain if it is indeed better to give than to receive, another Biblical saw, but if it involves a little thought, some imagination and a dose of good taste, both will be a pleasure.