Nov 9, 2009

The real meaning of Christmas

This is part of Challenge 24 at Blog This. This is the first time I'm participating in one of these challenges.

The Challenge:

  • What does Xmas mean to you and your family?
  • Have you got some traditions?? 
  • What will you cook?! 
  • Who will you spend it with? 
  • Got a favourite Christmas memory? 
  • How are you decorating??

Technically speaking, Christmas is not a festival I should be celebrating. You know, not being Christian and all. But I come from a land that celebrates some festival or the other every month and although religious traditions and customs are the main reason for the festivities, the end result is a getting together of the community, of friends and of family. Of course, growing up in the northern hemisphere, one of the most important ingredients of Christmas was the cold. Albeit it wasn't freezing, the slight chill in the air made Christmas what I remember it to be. The Aussie Christmas I celebrate now is of course is all about the sun and the warmth. :)

I went to an all-girls Catholic school run by Irish nuns hence learning about Christianity and secretly being indoctrinated was the norm. ;-) We painted Easter eggs, got a week off for Easter (not normal in India), got 3 weeks off for Christmas (as opposed to 10 days for other schools) and participated or watched the Nativity play being performed every single year. I enjoyed it and that was my first initiation to Christmas.

In Calcutta, India where I grew up, there lives a large community of Anglo-Indians and as a result, Christmas is very big in the city. While many Anglo Indians have branched out to other areas of the city now, the area near my school was known for its Anglo Indian residents and in the weeks leading up to Christmas, the neighbourhood would have a magical aura about it. From shopping and candy, christmas trees and tinsel, bright lights and presents - I loved the feeling of Christmas in the air.

Every year, my my parents would help us a decorate a Christmas tree and we even had a (slightly freaky looking) Santa Claus figurine. Christmas Eve is a night for parties and as children we would look forward to it, as my parents would be out for the night leaving us children (my cousins, my sister and me) at home to have our own little party. Those are my first memories of Christmas. We would wake up on Christmas day to the excitement of presents under our pillows from Santa Claus. Yes, I loved Christmas.

In the evening, my parents would take my sister me out to see the beautiful lights that lit up the city on Christmas day. Traffic was terrible and a journey that would usually take about 30 minutes, took 1 hour and 30 minutes but I never remember my father complaining about the drive. It's a tradition we carried out every year until I left home.

Growing up meant my cousins and sister started heading out to their Christmas Eve parties. Somehow I never ended up going to those. But what I did enjoy more is heading out for Midnight Mass one year with my family with my mum being the most enthusiastic and even helping us sneak into the church from a side entrance even though we were told the church was full! My school has its own church and we watched the service there. Not being particularly religious, I didn't care so much for the service but more for the warm feeling the festivities gave me. I liked watching people bow reverentially, innocently praying and seeing so many families together made me happy.

So although Christmas is not technically a festival I should have been celebrating, I did celebrate it. I loved to celebrate it with traditions my family created over the years. When I look back on Christmas today, I think of my parents and how they did the little silly things like Santa, the busy Christmas day drives, the midnight drive to the Church... just to make us happy and help us feel part of the general festivities in the air. Christmas to me is family, and I think in that sense, my family and me definitely managed to live the spirit of Christmas.

This will be my third Christmas in Australia and I will miss home, school and the memories I have of the wonderful times my family and I spent. I will miss decorating the tiny tree we had, the Christmas day drive and  my mum's penchant for Christmas cake! But, instead of living in the past, I will recreate that Christmas warmth at home this year by getting a tree, getting some presents for my boyfriend and me and simply spending time with each other the way a family should at Christmas. If I can do that this year, I think I will have had a great Christmas.


Liz said...

I'm not doing this challenge, but I am doing one on reading Christmas books! (And I'd tell you who started it, but honestly, I can't remember. Search "Christmas reading challenge" and you'll find it!) This one is fun, and as you just have to read 3 books, I think I can handle it. Some other reading challenges are just too ... challenging for me. Anyway, book No. 1 is Cancel Christmas, which certainly has echoes of "Christmas Carol." It's funny and a quick read, by an author with a flair for satire. It raises the important issue of tradition (of the holidays) vs. expediency and profit. Should Christmas be eliminated in the service of the dollar? Should national holidays dedicated in any way to religion be abolished? And like I said, all wrapped up in humor and fun.

Anonymous said...

Hey Liz.
THanks for stopping by. That sounds like a fun challenge. I'm going to check it out.

Anonymous said... you celebrated Christmas back in India? Christmas wasn't big in Bombay...only went to this family's house in the same building as they were Christians and got to eat yum food. Last year I was a bit of a scrooge and not really looking forward to it this year either. I love the trees and decorations and stuff but like every other festival (Diwali and Holi) I reckon Christmas too has become so commercialised. But it's nice to see it still holds value for some people... :)

Enjoy your X'mas! :)

Legal Alien said...

Yep.. we celebrated it coz it's pretty big in Calcutta. It's definitely commercialised. That's why I miss the little things I would do with my parents and sister.