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A water-borne Christmas tree

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A close-up look at the Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor’s Christmas tree, made completely of traditional Cambodian fishing equipment.
Photos by: PETER OLSZEWSKI

The annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony has become a tradition at Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor, but this year’s Christmas tree certainly branches away from tradition.

It is far removed from the traditional western-style faux-fir job that constitutes most such trees in this neck of the woods.

It is an intricate Cambodian-inspired couture tree, designed by none other than Siem Reap’s iconic fashionista Eric Raisina.

The Cambodia-based, Madagascar-born designer is noted internationally for his unconventional and edgy fashion that’s graced the runways of Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Lacroix and New York Fashion Week.

Much of his work is noted for the use of Cambodian materials such as silks, and his signature touch is certainly evident in his designer tree which is about as Cambodian as it can get.

In fact, it looks more like a giant fish trap rather than a tree, as Raisina crafted it from traditional items such hand-woven fishing nets, bamboo fishing rods and various types of baskets.

This was to symbolise the fact that Cambodia is one of the countries that flanks the Mekong River, and that the agriculture and fishing opportunities provided by the river affords vital sustenance and support to those living along its banks.

Raisina was not present to see his delightful creation light up because he is currently showing his high-end fashion wares at various salons in Paris.

But the hotel’s general manger, Robert Hauck, who came straight to the ceremony from the airport upon returning from a trip, also to Paris, said in a statement: “This year, instead of the customary fir which we would have had to order from abroad, we have opted for an unconventional Christmas tree made entirely of locally available and natural fishing equipment.”

But the tree wasn’t the only departure from traditional western Christmas culture at the ceremony.

Special guests during the evening were a group of cute kids from the Sunrise Children’s Village orphanage in Siem Reap.

A group of the children formed a traditional choir but the carols and Christmas songs they sang at times veered from the originals – in their version of that famous ditty “Jingle Bells”, Santa Claus no longer travels by sleigh, but by tuk tuk.

The ceremony also included the launch of a range of Christmas cards drawn by the kids from the orphanage.

A panel of judges was on hand to assess the cards and pick the best one, a difficult job because there were more than 100 excellent entries.

The cards were divided into two groups: those rendered by children aged 6 to 12; and those drawn by older kids, aged 13 to 17.

The judge’s scores and recommendations are currently being tallied. One card from each group will shortly be selected to be printed and then sold at the hotel to raise funds for Sunrise Children’s Village.

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