Welcome Christmas while we stand, heart to heart, and hand in hand

Welcome Christmas while we stand, heart to heart, and hand in hand

Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of LOVE.

Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of LOVE. The festival gives us the opportunity to pause and reflect on the important things around us. It is the season of gifts and warmth and family ties. The best of all gifts around a Christmas Tree is the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other. The season of Christmas brings festivity and joy into everyone’s life. It is the Day of Prayers, the day that takes away all the negativity and darkness from people’s life.

Since the early 20th century Christmas has also been a secular family holiday, observed by Christians and Non-Christians alike, devoid of Christian elements, and marked by an increasingly elaborate exchange of gifts. In this secular Christian celebration, the mythical figure Santa Claus plays an important role. The Children love him for the presents he brings and the warm smiles he spreads all over from behind his sparkling long white beard. Like many things have changed in the modern world Christmas celebrations too have changed over years. With the advent of Television programmes and commercialization more pomp and show and colour is being added to the celebrations than compared to late 50s to early 70s.

Christmas during this period was in many respects very similar to Christmas celebrations in the 21st century: Family gatherings, laughter and fun. Whereas today the celebrations are often centered around the presents and multimedia. In the earlier decades Christmas was more home spun, the celebrations were often characterized by a strong focus on traditions, family gatherings, religious observances and community events. Decorations tended to be more modest, with hand made ornaments and simple lighting displays. Money was always a constraint in those days. Rationing and austerity was strictly followed by most families. Christmas always had a feeling of frugality when compared to those of today.

Take the decoration for example: Today we are used to homes decorated both indoors and out with lights, animated figures and all manner of festive adornments. But as a child of 60s I remember the decorations very well. Though born in a Hindu family, we children were actively involved in helping a family friend Miss. Burton in the decorations. Miss, Burton, a spinster, an Anglo-Indian was the Vice-principal of St. George’s Girl’s Grammar High School in Abids. Ten days prior to Christmas we camped at her place day in and day out helping her in the celebrations. We knew that on the D-day we will get a fat gift, and eagerly awaited it. The decorations then were much simpler. Brightly tinged paper chains were made and looped across the walls of her sitting room. Sometimes when money was short the chains would be made from strips of news-paper.

The Christmas Tree, whether artificial or natural was rarely available in the market. We children always went in search of a big tree usually found in rich people’s bungalows. We politely requested the owner for a branch and planted it in a pot. Some generous men doled out a few cookies and toffees. Different varieties of chocolate bars were alien to us. The tree was decorated with stars and bells made from hued ribbons and were pasted on a cardboard, cut in similar shape from a shoe box, saved for the day, so that they don’t get twisted when decorated. Sometimes we hung a beautifully painted fairy, a cut out from an old magazine. Small candles cut from a big white one, painted with shades of ink were placed around the tree.

Miss. Burton baked Christmas cake and puddings from two weeks before. A rupee cion sometimes two, were stirred into the pudding for luck. The washed socks were left by the window facing the terrace, easily accessible to Father Santa, for gifts. Some pudding and cake would be left in a plate for Father Christmas and a carrot for Rudolph Red Nose Reindeer. The main attraction was the Christmas Cake, covered in white icing and decorated with all mismatched items like sugar candys, Parry toffees and some cookies. This wonderful mismatched decoration enhanced the beauty of the cake. The festivities of Christmas were never complete without Carrol singing that commenced ten days before. We went along with Miss. Burton and were part of the coir group. Waking up early in the cold winter mornings and walking to a particular Church member’s home was quite tedious but was fun too. The Carrols usually narrated Salvation history from the Fall in the Garden of Eden, to the coming of The Magi to Bethlehem guided by a star, with gifts to the new born Baby Jesus.

Roman Catholic Churches celebrate the first Christmas Mass at mid night and protestant Churches have increasingly held Christmas candle light services late on the evening of December 24th. Gifts are exchanged mostly on Christmas eve, December 24th in keeping with the notion that the Baby Jesus was born on the night of 24th and of course it’s done on 25th too at some places. With gifts exchanged and grand meals being enjoyed by the families, the Christmas festivities are over for another year. Christmas is the tenderness of the past, courage for the present, and hope for the future.

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