Spreading The Christmas Cheer!
Created by Anurima Updated on Dec 25, 2019
When I was a little girl, I remember how exciting the thought of an approaching festival used to be. Though not a Christian by religion, growing up in a small town called Shillong, where most people are of the Christian faith and going to a Catholic school, my sisters and I gradually made festivals such as Christmas and Easter our own.
Christmas for us meant doing the traditional things in a small way- meeting with friends over a special meal, baking a cake and exchanging gifts. We had a Christmas tree in the living room and a big bright star hung outside the house each year to make the festival more our own, just as Diwali or Durga Puja would be. I still have those vivid memories of a beautifully decorated tree and the wonderful company of my parents and close friends.
Christmas Celebrations in India
We all know that Christmas is celebrated on the 25th of December to commemorate the birth of Jesus. It is a twelve-day celebration which begins on the 25th of December and ends on the 5th of January. Traditionally it has been celebrated with family by gathering for a meal, in the presence of a glittery Christmas tree, exchanging gifts and attending church for a special Christmas mass.
Christmas celebrations in India are not as widespread as in most of the western countries but are celebrated with equal zeal and enthusiasm by Christians and many non-Christians alike. Exchanging of gifts is a highlight of the season. To spread the spirit of Christmas, market places, malls, and most other public places are decorated with lights, bright twinkling stars and Christmas trees to delight even the youngest of the shoppers.
A Christmas dinner is an elaborate meal, requiring elaborate preparations and presentation but the dishes may vary from region to region. In some parts of the country, people have a traditional English spread, which consists of Roast Duck or Chicken, Roast Potatoes and Gravy. In the south, a traditional meal may consist of Appams, Stew, Avial, and Murukku. Meat Biryani also finds its place in the traditional Christmas spread in some regions. A common link to all the different styles of celebration and food is the infamous Christmas cake, which is awaited by all the family members and neighbors alike! The cake can be made in many different ways but is mostly a variation of the classic fruit cake with a hint of spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg or ginger, topped off with a coat of delicious marzipan icing and decorated with little Christmas idols.
Ah, the Christmas Tree!
A unique aspect of Christmas in India is that, in some parts of the country, instead of decorating a traditional pine tree, a banana or mango trees are decorated. Over time, a touch of our tradition and culture has been added to a festival, which is essentially Western.
Involving a child in decorating the house and the tree will only add to the spirit of the festival and at the same time, it will keep them occupied. I remember how exciting it was for me as a child, to pick and choose the decorations and put them up on the tree. Decorating a tree all by myself was a big achievement and I did not hesitate to boast about it. Children can make decorations from things available at home.
The choice of could be endless- colored paper can be cut out into desired shapes, cotton balls can be used snow, crushed aluminum foil can be shaped into a ball and attached with a string to give the tree a shiny edge, ribbons can be attached to the end of the branches as bows. I remember making small hangings with pinecones collected from the outdoors. We glued one end of a small piece of ribbon to the base of the pinecone, made a bow and stuck the other end back on the pinecone. These little hangings were put on the tree or hung from windows and doorknobs. Little activities like these will keep children occupied, stimulate their imagination and increase their enthusiasm to gear up for the big day.
Ho! Ho! Ho! Is Santa real?
The story of modern Santa Claus comes from St. Nicholas, born in the Third Century in Turkey. He was a very helpful and generous man who helped people in need. Centuries after his death, people took old stories of St.Nicholas, the generous man, and created a man who distributed gifts to children during Christmas. In the UK, he was known as’ Father Christmas’, in France, he was ‘Pere Noel ‘and in Denmark, he was known as ‘Sinterklaas’ or as now we say, Santa Claus.
For children, Christmas is all about Santa Claus and the wonderful gifts he brings. It has been a part of the Christmas tradition for children to write letters and send them to the North Pole, where Santa Claus lives! The letters are usually a wish list of the things they would like for Christmas. Santa Claus is a jolly old man in a red and white outfit. He makes a magical trip around the world on Christmas Eve, riding on his sleigh with eight reindeers and enters homes through chimneys carrying a bag full of gifts. Parents have woven this tale of Santa Claus over centuries and today, children believe in the existence of Santa Claus with their eyes closed. As Christmas approaches, they make it a point to be at their best behavior so as to make it to Santa’s ‘nice list’ and avoid being in the ‘naughty list’ or else the beautiful remote-controlled Ferrari may just go to another boy! As a tradition, the little souls also keep a glass of milk and a plate full of cookies or pies for Santa, next to the Christmas tree.
A child may, however, not understand the true meaning of Christmas, which is one of spreading happiness and joy- it is something more than what meets the eye. To make them feel special and at the same time, be involved in spreading the joy by giving and sharing, we can inspire them by the story of Santa’s little elves. Santa has a few helpers who help make, wrap and distribute the gifts during Christmas time. These little creatures are clad in red and green, have pointy ears, long noses, and pointy hats. Children can be Santa’s little elves on the earth and help the less fortunate and needy during this time of the year. They can select from among their old toys, clothes, woolens, shoes and any other piece of object or clothing, which they will not use, gift wrap them and can donate them to children and people who dwell on the streets.
They can form a group of elves together with their siblings or friends and can collect, wrap and donate as many gifts as they would like to. Making children understand the importance of helping someone who is not as fortunate will help inculcate a sense of selflessness in them. Santa Claus and his elves are very generous-they give without expecting anything in return. Qualities such as these are the ones Santa looks for in little children to make it to his ‘good list’. His existence may as well, just be a myth, but year after year, Santa does it; he seems to delight millions of children on Christmas day as he has been doing for over a century. Perhaps, it is just the magic of the festival. Let us involve children in making Christmas a season of giving, sharing, love and joy for all- for even those who do not celebrate it.
Will I Be Celebrating Christmas this year?
Christmas, for me, is more about the children- their excitement and happiness attached to decorating the tree and receiving gifts. My daughter strongly believes in Santa Claus and is waiting for her surprise gift. Even though we are non-Christians and have never celebrated Christmas in the traditional way, I would like my children to experience the most out of this festival, as they would for Holi, Diwali or Durga Puja. So it will be a celebration amongst us in the family, by decorating a small tree, enjoying a meal of Soup, Chicken Biryani with some Raita, a Christmas cake and all the while, soaking up the Christmas spirit of love, warmth, and togetherness.
Only a child can feel the true spirit of a festival by absorbing the traditions. Whether we celebrate Christmas or not, let us make this holiday season a time to bond with our children by indulging in the festive spirit of love and sharing so as to provide them with memories to stay with them for their lifetime.
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