It’s December again in Penang. The malls are manic with shoppers thronging to eateries, shows, and sales of every conceivable electronic gadget. Strolling in air-conditioned euphoria under mammoth snowflakes that hang precariously from on high, you can catch sight of Santa Claus sailing a Norse longship with a polystyrene chicken and a gingerbread man as First Mate. I prefer a quiet walk beside the sea under casuarinas and coconut palms laced with jewels of light. Few here know the story of Christmas. Still, most will join the frenzied merriment of buying and receiving presents. The practice of generosity is supposed to turn us away from self-cherishing. How can it when we are raised on a diet of getting what we want from the tooth fairy or our parents for every good grade, birthday, or holiday we celebrate? As long as we are fed by a culture of materialism, what can be the true marrow of our giving? There are many reasons we give: o...