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It’s the Season

'Tis the season of family, love and good cheer! The season of Christmas cake… and it’s that time when Bing Crosby croons over the stereo singing about a White Christmas and sweetmeats are plated for neighbours. It’s also the season when younglings fight over bonbons and grandparents reminisce about the ‘good old days.’

Christmas is a season celebrated by most of us regardless of race or religion, and the season casts a spell over the island as it brings joy and peace throughout the land despite the times we live in.

The season of goodwill also brings with it a sense of hope. It’s a magical time when a rich fragrance of pine fills our homes, twinkling Christmas lights dress up the tree, and family members come together.

However, all is not calm and bright… thanks (or no thanks!) to the dreaded virus.

Certainly, COVID-19 has put a damper on the season’s festivities across the globe and unfortunately, it’s no different here in our island home. So if there’s one item we’re likely to have on our Christmas wish list, it’ll be that 2021 brings a new hope – perhaps with news that a vaccine is on the way.

We know not whether we’ll have to spend this season at home – or mostly at home; but if there is one thing our resilient islanders can vouch for, it’s the ability to find a way to party.

It’s no different when it comes to Colombo’s favourites. Even the celebrities have had a tumultuous year – and like us all, they too sense the need to share some good ole Christmas cheer with our readers.

From family and friends, to movies and good old-fashioned Christmas traditions, Ashwini Vethakan chats about this and that with a star-studded lineup of personalities in this month’s extended cover story – they share their views on 2020 while letting us in on what they’d like to find in their Christmas stocking this year!

We present Sri Lanka’s former cricket captain and present anchorman Angelo Mathews, former Miss Sri Lanka for Miss Universe Ornella Gunesekere, culinary connoisseur Dharshan Munidasa, fashion designer and RUMPUNCH Cofounder Rukshika Fernando Seneviratne, Colombo nightlife’s overlord Gehan Fernando, entrepreneur and Butter Boutique boss lady Rukshi Nethicumara, Sri Lanka’s national swimmer Akalanka Peiris, TV’s rising starlet Sharon Mascarenhas and the man whose voice has you trembling with the need to dance – Colombo’s Dillon Manuel.


01-ANGELO-MATHEWS

ANGELO MATHEWS


Q: How has 2020 been for you?
A: Challenging, to say the least. But I’m also happy that I had the opportunity to spend as much time as possible with my family and catch many ‘firsts’ for my growing kids. It has been rewarding in that sense. From a global point of view however, it has been heartbreaking to see what’s unfolding right in front us.

Q: What’s the one lesson you can take with you into the New Year?
A: Nothing is permanent, cherish what you have, give a hundred percent in whatever you do and enjoy every moment of life with your loved ones.

Q: Your post-COVID wish…
A: I sincerely hope that the world will heal and recover quickly from this pandemic so that we can all get back to normalcy. Lots of lives have been lost due to COVID-19 and I pray that the families of those affected may recover stronger from this tragedy.

Q: If you could write your own Christmas song, what would you name it?
A: Steal Mommy’s cake and run, run, run!

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION
To complete all pending resolutions from 2020 in 2021!

WISH LIST
A safer and healthier world
A community with compassion and empathy

02-ORNELLA-GUNESEKERE

ORNELLA GUNESEKERE


Q: If you could change one thing about this year, what would it be and why?
A: I wish we could spend more time learning from history in terms of patterns, behaviours, mistakes and successes, and use the past to inform ourselves about the present. There’s so much that we can use to prepare ourselves to care for each other better.
As a global community, people recognised that there are many practices, routines and habits we deem as being ‘advancements’ – which in reality adversely affect us all mentally, physically, emotionally and environmentally. I wouldn’t change anything about 2020 but hope the year changes us.

Q: Are you a planner or last-minute gift shopper? And how does that work out for you?
A: I’m a sentimental gift giver. Ideally, if someone I care about has mentioned something he or she likes – be it food or anything else; and if it’s in my capacity to provide it – that’s what I will give them. Since some people don’t like material gifts, knowing the person helps when deciding what to gift them.

Q: If you could write your own Christmas song, what would you name it?
A: I ate Santa’s cookies!

Q: A Christmas Carol, The Nutcracker, How the Grinch Stole Christmas or The Polar Express – which would be your favourite Christmas classic?
A: How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Q: How did you learn the truth about Santa Claus?
A: What truth? I’m really worried about how he will manage Christmas this year with all the international borders being closed!

SEASONAL FAVOURITES
SONG
White Christmas
FOOD
Breudher

CHRISTMAS IS...
The most wonderful time of the year
2020 WAS...
The year many lessons were learned (online)
FAMILY IS...
Life

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION
Eat less meat
Be more environmentally conscious
And be more appreciative

WISH LIST
There’s no better time for friends and family to come together than at Christmas. May the true meaning of this season fill our hearts and help us appreciate the love bestowed on us – rather than taking it for granted

03-DHARSHAN-MUNIDASA

DHARSHAN MUNIDASA


Q: How has 2020 been for you?
A: The year started with Nihonbashi Blue and my steak restaurant Carne Diem opening in the Maldives. We hoped to open multiple Ministry of Crab restaurants around the world and were so excited – but with COVID-19, everything ground to a halt.
It was unbelievable, unfathomable and unprecedented. After our second lockdown, I’m not sure how things are going to pan out. The middle of the year gave us a little strength where we had ‘near normalcy’ for a few months in Sri Lanka; and it was also great to see our restaurants reopening one by one around the world.
I think it goes without saying that 2020 has been a disastrous year for all of us but in this situation we find strength, new things to do and fresh inspiration. And I think the Crab Biryani at Ministry of Crab is one such dish that resulted from the lockdown.
It was also the year that kept me in Sri Lanka the most; and along with my travels around the island, I discovered some amazing local dishes such as Nuwara Eliya Beef.

Q: Which singular lesson can you take with you into the New Year?
A: To hope that all this will subside and we will get to rebuild soon.

Q: What day are you most looking forward to next year and why?
A: The day we can travel freely. There’s much work to be done, so many restaurants to visit, many people to say ‘hello’ to, a multitude of staff to encourage and so many cuisines that I miss.

Q: Your post-COVID wish…
A: I wish that never again will humanity experience something like this!

SEASONAL FAVOURITES
SONG
The Little Drummer Boy
FOOD
Turkey, which I get to roast once a year, is a favourite. In 2018, it was a 30 pounder!

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS
Despite all the disappointments of 2020, my New Year’s resolution is to pick up where I left off and continue my culinary journey

WISH LIST
For the horrendous nightmare that is COVID-19 to end

04-RUKSHIKA-FERNANDO-SENEVIRATNE

RUKSHIKA FERNANDO SENEVIRATNE


Q: Can you describe your fantasy Christmas or New Year party?
A: I would invite all my close friends, serve seafood and have dance music. I want to have this party on a beautiful beach anywhere in the world.

Q: How did you learn the truth about Santa Claus?
A: I think it was after watching a movie.

Q: A Christmas Carol, The Nutcracker, How the Grinch Stole Christmas or The Polar Express – which would be your favourite Christmas classic?
A: The Polar Express.

Q: What three words would you use to describe the festive season?
A: Happiness, holiday and fun.

Q: Where are you spending Christmas this year?
A: Upcountry in Sri Lanka.

SEASONAL FAVOURITES
SONG
So This Is Christmas
FOOD
Christmas Cake

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION
Work out and eat clean for a healthier lifestyle
Travel
Go back to dance (Latin and Kandyan)

WISH LIST
Travel in Sri Lanka or abroad with my family
A shopping spree
A safe environment without COVID-19

05-GEHAN-FERNANDO

GEHAN FERNANDO


Q: What’s your favourite cause to work for at this time of year?
A: Supporting those who are less fortunate is important throughout the year; and it’s important to teach our children these values. But this year is different – it’s been difficult for everyone but incredibly so for some. So I feel Christmas reinforces the need to support one another and see us through the hard times in whatever way we can.
My wife is also on the committee of a Christmas charity bazaar so charity is definitely our focus at Christmas time.

Q: Your post-COVID wish...
A: For the world to be restored on all fronts, Sri Lanka to shine in all its glory, a healthier coexistence worldwide with advances in technology, a vaccine or ensured immunity and a little more security as regards our future.

Q: How has 2020 been for you?
A: Extremely challenging – and it didn’t begin this year but in 2019. So it has called for a lot of adaptation and self-reflection.

Q: Can you remember your favourite Christmas? What was it like?
A: Christmas is my favourite time of the year – it is the season when I miss my parents that much more. My favourite time when the magic felt real was when my mother (Heather) was cooking our family favourites, and my father (Ray) would organise parties and take us to buy crackers. Special times with joy in simple things!

CHRISTMAS IS...
The celebration of Jesus’ birth, and a time for family and charity
2020 WAS...
A challenging year that has taught me how fragile our existence really is
FAMILY IS...
What’s most precious to me – and that which remains my lifeline for support and encouragement

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION
Make a greater commitment to exercise
Stop smoking – truth be told, this has been on my list for a few years
Spend more time with extended family

WISH LIST
Coexistence with COVID-19
More camping trips in Sri Lanka in 2021… with a special note to our personal camp general Charith Goonetilleke
To be able to travel overseas again

06-RUKSHI-NETHICUMARA

RUKSHI NETHICUMARA


Q: Any quirky family rituals during Christmas and the New Year?
A: I’m usually overseas at Christmastime.

Q: A Christmas Carol, The Nutcracker, How the Grinch Stole Christmas or The Polar Express – which would be your favourite Christmas classic?
A: A Christmas Carol.

Q: Your advice to seasonal shoppers…
A: Start early!

Q: What gift did you want but never got?
A: I have been lucky to get all the gifts I wanted.

SEASONAL FAVOURITES
CAROL
O Holy Night
FOOD
Christmas Pudding

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION
I never make them… because I never stick to them!

WISH LIST
For a better 2021!

07-AKALANKA-PEIRIS

AKALANKA PEIRIS


Q: What’s the one lesson you can take with you into the New Year?
A: Life will always have challenges and failures that we must face with a positive mindset no matter how hard it is. We must train ourselves to take every failure as a lesson learnt.
And 2020 was a very tough and challenging year with COVID-19. It made us realise how important nature is. It was seeking a balance but the contribution made by us was not sufficient. So Mother Nature took the next step with COVID -19 – and see what happened to us!
Given everything I’ve learned, I strongly believe that we should think more about nature, humanity and equality without running the rat race. When I look back, I’d say 2020 was a year filled with lessons. So we should carry what we learnt into 2021 and ensure that we don’t repeat the same mistakes.

Q: What are your childhood memories of Christmas and New Year?
A: Gathering with my extended family to celebrate the festive season and travelling to various parts of the country.

Q: If you could be Santa Claus for a day, what would you do?
A: I would give food, and shelter along with love and warmth to those who are in need.

Q: Which gift did you want but never got?
A: My schooltime.

SEASONAL FAVOURITES
CAROL
Silent Night
FOOD
Roast Turkey and Cranberry Wellington

WISH LIST
A solution for COVID-19
World peace
A better Sri Lanka and world

08-SHARON-MASCARENHAS

SHARON MASCARENHAS


Q: Any special family traditions during Christmas and the New Year?
A: In my family, we have a tradition of giving back to others on Christmas Day. We always exchange Christmas treats and gifts with our neighbours and friends – who don’t necessarily celebrate Christmas – and make them a part of our celebrations.
We also used to send care packages to our friends in the military so they could experience the Christmas spirit as well. My parents always invited someone who’s away from his or her family during the holiday season to our home for Christmas dinner.
In my younger days, my parents would set up a small scavenger hunt for us on Christmas Day. They kept all our presents under the Christmas tree where we would spend the entire morning opening them together. It was a fun activity back in the day and a memory to cherish now.

Q: What is your favourite cause to work for at this time of year?
A: The true spirit of Christmas is that of giving. Since this year has been tough on all of us, we prefer to send care packages to needy and vulnerable families in the community, keeping the Christmas spirit alive.

Q: Are you a last-minute gift shopper or planner? And how does that work out for you?
A: I prefer to finish my gift shopping as early as possible so I can arrange everything perfectly… but I always end up shopping at the last minute as well. However, I make sure to find gifts that my family and friends will love – presents that I know would put a smile on their faces.

Q: If you could write your own Christmas song, what would you name it?
A: Dad’s home for Christmas.

SEASONAL FAVOURITES
SONG
Rod Stewart’s version of Let It Snow
Someday At Christmas by Stevie Wonder
FOOD
My mom’s homemade Christmas Cake

CHRISTMAS IS...
Christmas is all about spreading the spirit of giving – a true Christian yearns to possess a charitable soul that reflects our Lord’s generosity and compassion. The season reminds us to be more kind and generous to those who are hurting and less fortunate – as well as forgive people who have hurt us so that we may be blessed to live a pure life in accordance with God’s will
2020 WAS...
A year to recall our failures and wrongdoings to Mother Nature, learn from our mistakes and do the needful to heal wounds – and to live a simple life in the years to come
FAMILY IS...
Home… where we cherish the memories of happiness and joy, seek consolation when in sorrow and pain, and share love and hope unconditionally

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS
Live life to the fullest
Spend more time with my family and friends
Keep stress levels low

WISH LIST
True friendships
Happiness
Faith

09-DILLON-MANUEL

DILLON MANUEL


Q: You’re a new dad… to triplets! What’s on their Christmas gift list?
A: I have no clue.

Q: Where are you spending Christmas this year?
A: With my family and then maybe a brief vacation till New Year’s Day.

Q: If you could write your own Christmas song, what would you name it?
A: Christmas in May.

Q: Which gift did you want but never got?
A: A motorcycle.

SEASONAL FAVOURITES
CAROL
O Holy Night
FOOD
Almost everything

CHRISTMAS IS...
A time I spend with my loved ones – and reflect on the past year
2020 WAS...
An absolute roller coaster
FAMILY IS...
The ones who are there for you – and vice versa – no matter what their circumstances are

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS
Try to spend as much time as I possibly can with my wife and kids
Start recording the new album that I’ve been sitting on this whole year

WISH LIST
For my family to be healthy and safe
A decent year ahead
A new guitar maybe!

snowflake

Q: What would you like to find under the tree this year?

Dharshan
A box full of fresh local ingredients

Rukshika
A holiday

Akalanka
A scholarship to an American university

Ornella
A vaccine for the novel coronavirus

Sharon
An all expenses paid trip to see the northern lights

snowflake

Q: What’s the best thing about celebrating the season in Sri Lanka?

Angelo
Home. Surrounded by everyone I love and adore – what better way to celebrate the birth of Christ

Rukshi
Spending the season with friends and family… and Breudher – nothing beats it!

Gehan
Family and friends

Dillon
Family

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