At a time of giving, some well-known Hong Kong personalities recall the joy attached to a very special gift Barney Cheng Hong Kong's foremost fashion designer, Barney Cheng has made ultra-feminine glamour his trademark, whether he is designing gowns for the Oscars, a bridal collection for De Beers or his own jewellery collection. His long list of celebrity clients includes actresses Gong Li, Michelle Yeoh and Liza Minnelli (not to mention the cream of Hong Kong high society). 'My best Christmas present was one I treated myself to four or five years ago, when I flew to Europe with my younger brother and his wife to join several other members of our extended family. Seven of us met up in Rome, and we restaurant-hopped and power-shopped for two days before flying up to Milan for more of the same. 'It was complete sensory overload. We ate the best [most memorable was a mushrooms-only restaurant near the Spanish Steps], drank the best [one restaurant served us a cheval blanc by mistake], then got a Mercedes van and drove to St Moritz, where we had the most amazing cheese fondue and raclette at the original Chesa [St Moritz's world-famous hotel]. Even the ski-in, ski-out restaurants on the slopes had Michelin stars. We skied all day, spa-pampered before dinner, and just had the most fabulous week. 'I had not realised that in St Moritz people still dress up for dinner, like in James Bond films. Luckily, we had all the latest stuff because we had just shopped in Milan and Rome. Otherwise it would have been room service clad in trainers and jeans.' John Chu Founder and chairman of Centro Digital Pictures, Hong Kong's leading digital animation and film effects company. A special-effects pioneer and multiple award winner, he was named one of the '50 Stars of Asia' by Business Week in 1999. Centro was responsible for the visual effects of The Stormriders, Shaolin Soccer and, most recently, Kill Bill Volume 1. 'One of the most meaningful gifts I received at Christmas must be the Box Brownie camera my father gave me when I was a kid. It opened a whole new world for me - the world of image creation. Through the camera I was to learn how a moment and its story were captured and frozen on celluloid. The magic spell which image-creation cast on me has not stopped since. I was to pursue my studies in filmmaking and later build my business, which has everything to do with creating images and telling their stories. I must have invested over $200 million on state-of-the-art motion picture and digital equipment for my company. But I have never stopped looking out for an old Box Brownie camera.' Mira Yeh Socialite, fashion diva and devoted mother to seven-year-old daughter Nadya. A patron of the Hong Kong Ballet, she is also on the Hong Kong International School Committee and writes for society magazine Talkies. 'The best present I've ever received was the first picture my daughter ever drew for me, when she was three. It's kept locked away in a safe place. 'My other best present was given to me by my very good friend in New York - a paperweight in the shape of a diamond ring. It's a replica of a Tiffany ring with a 120-carat rock, made of crystal - Swarowski, I think. 'It's really pretty as a paperweight, but the beauty of it is that you can also wear it as a bracelet. On the card, my friend wrote that diamonds are a girl's best friend. 'She knows I don't wear diamonds - I may lose them. I won't ever lose this one. Christmas is a time to get in touch with friends far away, and this funny paperweight always reminds me of her. It also makes me laugh. It is a gift I treasure.' Veronica Pedrosa CNN news anchor. During her 13 years as a journalist and news anchor, she has covered global and regional news stories, and conducted in-depth interviews with the world's leading news-makers. 'One of my most favourite presents is a wooden sculpture from Haiti depicting what looks like Cuban boat people. My husband, Mark Philips, bought it for me while we were in the Dominican Republic during Christmas 1998. 'I've always identified with refugees and people trying to find a new life, because I was in exile during my own childhood. 'My mother wrote an unauthorised biography of Imelda Marcos and we happened to be in London when martial law was declared, so my parents took the opportunity to claim refugee status. I was six years old at the time. 'My other best present came last year - my baby daughter, Isabelle. She gave me Christmas off but arrived on January 2. She is a Christmas present that just gets better every day.' Aron Harilela Prominent business leader, director of the Harilela Group and heir to a hotel empire. Hong Kong-born Aron left for England at the age of 13 to attend boarding school, and stayed on to complete a PhD in political philosophy. He moved back to Hong Kong eight years ago. Aron spends his weekends playing tennis or riding horses. 'About four years ago, my sister [who lives in Brisbane] heard I wanted to start playing polo. So she went into the nearest horse shop and bought me a saddle for Christmas. She probably hadn't been on a horse ever and didn't have much idea about saddles, but she chose me a beauty in tan and brown leather. 'Someone brought it over to me in Hong Kong. It was a complete surprise. I was thrilled. I wasn't expecting to receive anything. As it turned out, it was not a polo saddle at all, but it is the thought that counts and my sister had great intentions. 'I've never been able to play polo with it, but I've used and enjoyed it ever since when I ride and jump at Beas River, Fanling.' Sister Betty Ann Maheu Of the Maryknoll Sisters, a United States-based Catholic order which runs foreign missions. Originally from Canada, she has been in Hong Kong for 13 years and is also editor of Tripod, a bilingual publication about Christianity in China. 'Christmas at our house was always very nice, but one year stands out. I was about 18 or 19 and home from college on vacation. While out walking with a friend, she pointed out a house on the corner. 'That family is very poor,' she told me, 'and I don't think their little girl will get anything for Christmas'. 'I went and asked her mother if I could take the little girl out and buy her a present. The mother agreed, so we went into town on Christmas Eve and I made the child select whatever clothing and toy she liked. When we got back home, the mother and the little girl were both so happy it made me realise something. It's not so much the gift you receive at Christmas that is important, but the gift you give. That has had a great influence on my life.' Charles Wong Doon-yee Hong Kong Police's assistant commissioner, service quality, Charles Wong joined the force in 1978. His wife is also a police officer. He enjoys scuba diving and is a competition pistol shooter who has competed in the Pan-Pacific championships. 'We were attending a Christmas gathering, which was actually held on New Year's Eve, 12 years ago, at the home of a Scottish colleague. Just before midnight, he explained to me a Scottish tradition that when the clock strikes 12, a tall, dark, handsome friend brings to the home a gift that would create warmth and good wishes for the family. The gift may be a drink like whisky, or food, but especially coal. The friend who brings coal is a person the family can truly trust. It is a useful, meaningful gift. 'My colleague then handed me a piece of burning coal, and asked me to leave the house and come back bearing it. I was privileged to bring such a gift, which symbolised the trust and friendship between the two families. His gesture in allowing me to do so remains to this day my best ever Christmas present.' Jill Robinson Founder and chief executive of Animals Asia ( www.animalsasia.org ), a charity foundation devoted to the needs of wild, domesticated and endangered species. Based in Hong Kong, the organisation's main mission is China Bear Rescue, which helps bears suffering on farms throughout China. 'Just before last Christmas, 17 new arrivals came to our sanctuary in Chengdu, Sichuan province. Previously used as living bile machines on China's notorious bear farms, their condition was horrific: missing limbs from being caught in the wild, declawed and detoothed, and open wounds draining them of their bile for medicines easily replaced by herbs. 'Being there, helping them slowly recover - and eventually seeing them join nearly 70 other bears tumbling around in play - was a million Christmases rolled into one. On a freezing New Year's Eve, my husband John and I crept out to the dens just before midnight to wish the bears a happy new year. The atmosphere was magical, as we drank champagne and watched sleeping bears gently breathing out clouds of cold air, contentedly dreaming in their cosy, straw-lined beds.'