by Nguyen My Ha
It's getting closer to Chrismas and everyday you can see more stories, photos and Facebook posts relating to season's preparations.
When I read about a Jewish friend trying to get gifts packed in time for her family or a Vietnamese baker trying to get her ginger bread house done, you understand that yule-tide has evolved beyond a religious celebration.
This Christian tradition has become popular not only because of the rising number of practising Christians, but, for better or worse, shopping campaigns and sales promotions.
Just last week, we saw on the internet a Christmas tree covered up to half of its height with gifts. On one side, people who supported the woman who posted the photo said the gifts may go to a larger extended family instead of her immediate family. People who felt ostracized by the blunt exposure of gifts said it was mere showcase of wealth and arrogance.
But above all, Christmas is when people spread their love far and wide.
In the past decade, as Vietnamese society has become more internationally integrated, celebrating Christmas has become more popular. First it was deemed to be trendy and showy as some of the well-off hired a Santa Claus to surprise their children with beautifully packed gifts.
But Christmas is for everybody.
I was surprised to read a post by my high-school friend's husband about the most precious Christmas gift he ever had received in his 53-year life. It was the second marriage for both my friend, who divorced her first husband, and her now-husband, who lost his first wife to lung cancer.
It was Christmas Eve and his son-in-law, then 14 years-old, wanted to give him a gift.
"You can wait until the next morning," the mother was quoted as saying.
Bo Bon Con, or Father of Four, the husband's name on Facebook, writes, "The boy approached me the next morning, when I was tending my bonsai trees. He asked to help out and then said, 'I wanted to give you a Christmas gift. I would like to call you Dad!"
"My oh my! I could not express my joy and happiness! Well on the other side of my life, I have never received such a precious gift for Christmas. What I've been waiting for the past two years finally came."
The Father of Four went in length to explain that after losing his beloved wife who had given him a boy and a little girl, he never expected that happiness could come again to his family.
"Many years ago, when I was raising my children on my own, and my neighbour insisted I should meet this woman, I reluctantly came to the date not knowing that it was one of the best things that ever happened to me!"
"The next day, my boy chatted with my son, who was studying away from home. 'Hey, you know what, he wrote, 'I called your father Dad.' Now can you do the same?"
"What he was trying to say was to ask my son to call his mum 'Mum.'"
"A few years later, we welcomed our youngest girl. Now I am the happiest man alive. I have four children and I'm feeling grateful!"
Those of us who are friends with the couple couldn't be happier for them and their children.
But what my friend, who's currently away for half a year for training in the US, wrote in response to her husband's post, also titled, THE CHRISTMAS GIFT, moved many of us to tears!
"Now I will tell you about something that happened nearly ten years ago," she started.
"One fine morning, I woke up to the gaze of a pair of beautiful big black eyes of a three-year-old girl. The little girl of my then-boyfriend, who came and stayed over with me the previous day, looked at me smiling. She said, 'Auntie Van, I dreamed my mummy came to see me last night.'
"'How was mummy? Did she say anything to you in your dream?'"
"'No, mummy only smiled. She didn't say anything. She stood by my bed wearing a long blue dress. My mummy was beautiful and kind like you.'"
"Then she softly said, 'Can I call you mummy from today?'"
"Upon hearing such an innocent and heartbreaking proposal, my heart skipped a beat," she writes. "Tears welled my eyes and I felt utterly sad yet happy! I hugged her tiny shoulders and said, 'Yes, I can be your mummy, of course.'"
"Many years later, what I promised her that day came true."
"People say it takes many years for women to heal the wound and find happiness again after a failed marriage. It was true for me. Though I did not shut my heart, I knew it'd be very difficult to find someone to share my life with again."
She then went on to say why she chose to be with him.
"Behind the cool appearance, you have a big heart full of love. Both of us share the same unconditional love for our children, which is the common trait that connects us both. It was key to explain why our children are all well-behaved, love each other and their family so much, something quite remarkable for people in our circumstances."
"I know there will be more challenges ahead of us in the future, but I believe that with kindness, faith and sincere love, we will share all joy and sadness together, then beautiful and good things will come our way."
"It'll be Christmas soon, from far away, I send you and our four children, (she named each of them), my best wishes and a love that has been multiplied over the years!"
Christmas time is when you spread love and kindness. Now she has to work hard to finish her training thesis and board a plane home on December 23.
Good luck to her. Bon voyage and Merry Xmas! — VNS