An Indian Christmas

I love Christmas. Come November and the so-called Christmas spirit wells up within me – the air around takes on a festive feeling – and I start to plan eats, dinners, lunches, decorations, gifts. It’s been the same year after year, and nothing’s changed. Has nothing really changed?

I guess it has. I still plan all the above, but I hardly execute anything much. Yes, a lot has changed in that way. I miss Christmas. I miss the Christmas celebrations as I knew it for five decades. I tend to slip into reminiscences of days gone by in an effort to capture a bit of my childhood…a part of my teen years…a bit of my youth…and a chunk of the rest of my life before I left behind all that was familiar – an Indian Christmas in our home.

It is at times such as these that my mind dredges up things like an article, written a long time back on I searched and sure enough I found it! Just re-reading it brought back all the “Christmassy” feeling I so love to feel. So instead of writing a whole new piece which would be less enthusiastic and would dive to depressing lows, judging by the mood I am in, I’d rather reproduce it here and be euphoric!

An Indian Christmas by Joy Clarkson (2007)

Just a fortnight ago, I was desperately trying to pack forty-eight hours into my day. There were so many things that had to be done in preparation for Christmas. Cakes to be baked, gifts to be bought, traditional sweets and savouries to be prepared, decorations to be put up, furniture to be upholstered (as it was done four years ago), living room curtains to be replaced, and a carpet too perhaps, a party to be planned…it was endless. Oh yes! The salon, how could that be left out. The last thing I needed on Christmas was bad hair, dull skin and rough hands.

How I love Christmas. The whole world seems so beautiful and happy in its preparation to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Personally, I feel more charitable; more forgiving; able to overlook the meanness of people and truly meet it with joy and love. Whether you are a believer or not, nevertheless, the spirit of Christmas embraces you with love and a feeling of caring and sharing.

The malls are decorated. Santa caps sell like hot cakes. People like to strut about with these red caps. Christmas is so commercialised, that’s sad because Santa Claus becomes the main figure!

The church is open throughout the day for people of other faiths, who come in a continuous stream to pray, despite the cold, even at midnight on Christmas Eve. All of us ‘busy’ folk who don’t find time to go to church throughout the year, can be seen in the front pews on Christmas in our Sunday Best.

” Seasonal Christians,” whisper the hoity-toity regulars, and then don their church faces. I smile and bow my head to thank God for making it possible for me to be in His House to share in the joy of His birth.

” I’m a seasonal churchgoer but a regular Christian,” I whisper to my neighbour, who raises her eyebrows as we all rise to sing. I like a little humour, a little laugh. Though I doubt my Christian neighbour found it funny!

I’ve never been able to outgrow the excitement and pleasure of buying and receiving Christmas gifts. The hunt for the right gifts, the mental arithmetic as you try to adjust everything into your budget, the minor disappointments, the major delight in giving and receiving ‘ just what I wanted ‘ gifts.

An overflow of this feeling is also present in my culinary pursuits.The most arduous task used to be preparing salt meat. The entire process takes about twenty days. So does the beetroot wine. However, this is a simpler preparation which only needs time to ferment. The successes and disasters in the kitchen, as the goodies get in and out of the oven and the frying pan, fill the home with laughter and much consoling too.

Decorating the house and tree is a family affair. As each one pitches in, at times, it does run into mild differences of opinion, which are quickly resolved….that’s the spirit of Christmas. The flower rangoli is designed and diyas placed at the entrance. Tea lights are put on the balcony wall. Candles of various shapes and sizes are a part of the decor.

Finally when all the baubles, tinsel, lights, tree, bells and bows are in place and the cakes, sweets and savouries are done — It’s Christmas Eve and the refrain of ‘Silent Night, Holy Night…’ wafts through the house as we light all the candles and switch off the lights. The star hanging in the balcony is lit and it swings in the breeze. The wind-chimes pick soft notes. The carol is the only other sound as it plays softly….” All is calm, all is bright, Round yon Virgin mother and child…….Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace.”

A transformation takes place; such peace descends on each one: “A peace that passes all understanding.”

NOTE: Rangoli – An artistic design made on the floor with flower petals or dry, coloured powder.

Diyas: Small earthen lamps.


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