It’s 6 days before Christmas! And while I think I’ve sort of outgrown Christmas (unlike my husband who is so adorably excited for this season), I must admit that it still brings a lot of happy memories from my childhood.

But come to think of it, it’s actually pretty weird to be in a country where not every corner is lit up with Christmas lights. Not hearing Christmas songs from your neighbours’ place is also a bit disconcerting. I find myself even forgetting that it’s just a few days till Christmas. 😛

So being the Catholic Filipinos that we are, we got ourselves a plastic tree as soon as Halloween was over. No, we’re not cuckoo. In the Philippines, Christmas trees are up as early as September – I kid you not. And when people go and live abroad, we do try to make sure we settle in just fine. One of the ways to adapt to a new country is to make your new home actually feel like ‘home’. Not really a replica of your home country but you just bring in traditions and little things that remind you of where you really are from.

Where to get your Christmas Tree

At that time, my husband was sort of frantic – asking people where we can get a tree. He was so determined to bring Christmas cheer into our new home, he was asking people from the embassy who have been here in Kuala Lumpur longer where we can get our own Christmas tree as early as October. So just in case people haven’t gotten their trees until now, and for future reference to those who will be looking, these were the answers that we got:

1. China Town

2. MidValley Megamall

3. Parkson’s Department Stores

4. IKEA

In the Philippines, you can buy Christmas trees and decor as early as August. By September, malls already have a full-blown section for the holidays so it’s never really a problem to Christmas-ify (here I go again, inventing words) your home. Here in Malaysia, where majority of the people practice Islam, it is quite hard to find a Christmas tree that early. Believe me, we checked those malls.

Thanks to IKEA though, my husband was pacified. On 2 November, we were able to get an artificial tree there for less than RM150 (Php1931, EUR35, USD43) as well as enough decor for around RM70 (Php901, EUR16, USD20.15).

Cos halloween's over. 🎄❤ #twitter

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Not bad for its price! 🙂 You can’t see my hubby’s face in this photo but I’m telling you, he had a goofy smile that night while I had a warm fuzzy feeling which I tried to brush off with my “I’ve outgrown Christmas” face. 😉

Backstory: My hubby and I, as kids, were sort of deprived when it comes to the Christmas tree department. We came from middle class families and getting those lush big trees (like what people on TV have) was just an unnecessary expense. So for as long as I could remember, it was me and my 2-ft Christmas tree. And yeah, hubby’s experience was also similar. So back then, we never really made a big deal out of it. But since it’s our first Christmas as a couple, might as well get something nice for our home and make 2 childhood dreams come true – still within a budget, of course. 😉

China Town, MidValley Megamall, and Parkson’s brought out the Christmas goodies by the last week of November. You can get a really tall (around 6 feet) and lush Christmas tree from Parkson’s at around RM400 while cheaper versions can be found in China Town. Parkson’s also wins when it comes to best Christmas decor. However, you have to be ready with your wallet. They’ve got porcelain choir boys and snow angels (with beautiful, hand-painted faces) at around RM250. Christmas decor in MidValley (AEON Department Store to be exact) range from as low as RM10 to RM50. But don’t expect the quality to be as good as what they have in Parkson’s.

Want a live Christmas tree? Personally, I feel it’s rather impractical to cut down pine trees. Poor trees! Then the tree’s needles (leaves) will fall on a daily basis so you’d have to sweep or get your vacuum cleaner. However, they do give your home that wonderful, Christmas-y smell. But I suggest you keep the air-conditioning running to keep the falling needles down to a minimum and to make sure the tree has enough water.

You can get live Christmas trees at:

1. IKEA – They have a 50% cash back offer if you return the tree for recycling between 26 December 2914 and 14 January 2015.

2. Floristika – I’ve passed by their store in Bangsar a couple of times and saw their ads for it.  Such a cute flower shop. 😀 You can check their site for more info.

Another thing I’ve noticed here in KL is the so-called Christmas rush is actually tolerable. With the majority of the population practicing Islam, the people you have to against with at malls are not as many as you’re used to (if you come from the Philippines or any other Christmas-loving country out there). The traffic situation is the same. The traffic jams stick with the rush hours and by 8pm, you can drive around KLCC and other mall areas with ease.

So with that said, here are a couple of tips (that are not confined to just shopping in KL) to make shopping and gift giving this season hassle-free.

1. Make a list, determine the budget and the Ws.

I love, love, love lists. They make things more organised and neat. I also love writing on pretty paper from this really thick list type pad a friend gave me last Christmas. This is where my OC behaviour kicks in (not in cleaning! Hihi). It is important to decide beforehand who you’ll be giving gifts to.

BUT. It is also important – not to mention it will save you LOTS of time – if you also decide and jot down the ‘What’, the ‘How Much’ and the ‘Where’.

Make 4 columns and fill out the name of the recipient, what gift you plan to give him or her (it’s best to have a plan B just in case the first gift option isn’t available), how much is your budget, and where you can buy it.

Such lists will help you determine your budget and help you plan your shopping trips. This method has always been handy for me when it comes to buying gifts.

2. One trip is enough

With your handy-dandy list, plan your shopping trip(s). In the Philippines, you can always go to an SM or Ayala Mall and just get everything in one trip. Yes, malls back home are THAT huge and they often have an outrageous number of shops where you can buy affordable gifts (Forever 21, H&M, Department Stores, etc). However, the only place here in Malaysia to malls back in the Philippines is MidValley Megamall. Some malls and stores here in Kuala Lumpur are far from each other (like in Europe where the H&M is on the other side of the district from MAC so that would have to be two separate trips. Pffft.) or are in different malls so you have to make more than one trip for your Christmas shopping.

So if you live in Manila or a similar area with malls that are practically complete (like Thailand or Hong Kong), I’d suggest you set one day to just do all your shopping. In KL or similar places, your best bet would be to go back to your list and check which ones you can get in the same mall, on the same day.

3. Keep an eye out for ‘Sales’

Ah, my favourite word! I live by the thought that not everything nice should make your wallet cry. My hubby believes in that too. We get a thrill out of buying something nice at a very low price. It’s like winning against the universe. You know what I’m saying?

For gifts this year, we went to the Big Bad Wolf Book Sale as most of the people we were giving gifts to are readers.

We made sure we tailored our choices to their tastes – a travel book for Alvin’s colleague who loves exploring, a book on classical music and corresponding art for our Ambassador who loves  – well, classical music and art (I hope he’s not reading my blog as it will spoil the surprise, unless he’s opened it already.), a cookbook for our Consul General who loves to make hearty dishes (this is also beneficial to us as we get to try his cooking all the time! YUM!), a book on swords and other weapons for one of Alvin’s colleagues who collects different kinds of weapons. And a couple more others. You catch my drift. 😉 And I’m happy to announce that we spent only around half of our gift budget that we decided on prior to learning about the sale.

Sweeeet!

4. Buy small ’emergency gifts’

Because you’ll never know. There could be a colleague you forgot about, you might bump into a friend you haven’t seen in ages, there might be visitors.

I plan to give something to our building’s security guards and administration as they have all been so nice. So this year’s emergency gifts will include giveaways for them as well.

5. Buy wrapping paper in bulk (better if in advance)

Because the later you buy, the more likely you’ll end up with leftovers that have ugly designs or have crumpled edges. Or there won’t be enough of the same design for all your gifts. Que horror!

6. Put some thought in wrapping

Because badly-wrapped gifts are a sign of unthoughtfulness. You want the people who will be receiving your gifts to know that you care about them and that you remembered them this season. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It just has to be neat.

Not that crafty? Here’s a simple kimono-style wrapping tutorial you can try. Click here.

That’s all for now. Will update you how our actual Christmas holiday goes next week. We’re going on a stay-cation as it’s just the two of us for now. 🙂

More later.

Love,

Carol