Day #45

Day #45:

Merry Christmas to you and your family! My favourite festival is here. It is Christmas morning now and I’m flooded with memories of so many past Christmases. When I was in school it was about buying new clothes. We are six siblings and this used to be a big exercise those days. If you have kids now you will know how fussy and cranky they are when they are buying new clothes. At least my sons are like that. They hate shopping. They pick out the first shirt or trouser that they think suits them and that is that. It’s another matter that they never wear it again. If your kids do not fuss or better still love the experience, then you are either lucky or unlucky depending on the size of your wallet. Those days we kids could not afford to fuss. We were under an autocratic rule where dissent or personal choice was not an option. One year my dad bought a large roll of patterned cloth and got that stitched for all of us. We’re three boys and three girls and we were forced to wear the same outfit that year. Boy, what an experience we had. That was the first and last year that happened. We mutinied and made it clear that we will never again wear something like this. This was the one time my dad relented and he never tortured us like that again.

The other things that stick in my mind are the elaborate preparation for at least one month running up towards the festival. We used to buy spices, dry fruits, and nuts for baking cakes from Dawn Stores or Spencers and soak the dry fruits in brandy for a few weeks. Then we will bake the cakes a few days before Christmas. What a yummy experience that used to be. I will churn the butter and the batter and taste it liberally even before the baking. I used to help my mom make ladoos and other savouries and sweets so I can taste them in the process. Tons of food will be made – biriyani, idlis, mutton kozhambu, cutlets, Ok. I’m hungry now. Sorry for drooling all over this page. I’m going to change the topic.

064d4370677ed4185bdb4cc35891dd58

Then the decorations! There were no shops selling Christmas decorations like we have now. In fact the mountain paper was made at home and can you believe that I still have some of them. They must be more than 35 years old. We used kraft paper (the ones we cover school books with), poster colours, brush and water. We mix each colour with water in separate containers and then dip the brush in each and tap the brush on a ruler over the paper. Drops of colour fall over the paper and as you layer the colours the mountain paper gets created. We grew the grass from mustard or wheat seeds at least 4 to 6 weeks before Christmas. Straw, wood pieces, cotton wool and other available materials were used to create the whole nativity scene. This will be viewed by our friends and family and comparisons will be made with the previous year’s creation or other people’s creations.

On Christmas eve we have a light supper and go for midnight mass, hug and kiss hundreds of friends and family at Church and return home with at least a dozen more people to continue the festivities and celebrations with food, wine, music, dance, more food, more wine, mistletoe and more.  There would be at least a hundred people going through our doors that day and the sound of laughter and talk will drift through for a few days more.

Today, we don’t have such get-togethers anymore. We live in nuclear families and any crowd over a dozen is shifted to a hotel and no one has the time or takes the trouble of doing everything themselves. It’s become mechanical and commercial. However, even smaller gatherings can still rekindle the memories of yore. Last night we went for midnight mass, my wife, my sister and I. Supper was at my sister’s home, yes you guessed it, idlis and mutton kozhambu. Mass and the choir were fantastic. The lights and the decoration were many notches higher than what I’ve witnessed earlier. We didn’t bump into hundreds of people we knew, nor did we bring home a dozen others. But the Yuletide spirit was there nevertheless and we rounded it off with an ice cream before we called it a night.

e918e4586ab74c327f06dc317d9fa42e

I’m now looking forward to our family lunch where the whole khandaan will show up and rekindle some of the magic of the past and rehash old stories and memories.

I’m grateful I have a large family and many beautiful memories created over several decades that tether us together with love.

Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones, go create some lovely moments together so these become beautiful memories that linger on for several decades more.

Day #43

xeeeb83

Day #43:

23rd December… 2 more days for Christmas. But my house is not yet ready for Christmas. Some repairs and restorations took place after Cyclone Vardah. Spring cleaning is on now. I’m yet to pull down the stored decorations, lights, nativity crib, etc. So it still doesn’t look like Christmas at home. But seeing the pictures of the celebrations that has started in my housing complex and the wishes that have started pouring in and floating around, the Yuletide spirit is seeping in and I’m rearing to pull out all the decorations.

Are you already infected with the Christmas spirit? This is one of the most looked-forward-to festival in the whole world and not just by Christians. This is the time for gifting, for sharing, for spending  time with family and loved ones, for wearing new clothes, for feasting, for wine, for cakes, for midnight mass, for kissing your loved ones under the mistletoe, etc.

From childhood this was my favourite festival. Hot idlis with mutton kuruma after midnight mass was to die for. And the wine and the dance and the girls and the …..hmmm! A late lazy breakfast was followed by a sumptuous lunch with biriyani as the central course. The lunch table was laden with food and could feed over two dozen people at any given point of time. The house was filled with friends and family either resident or visiting. It was a whirlwind of smiles, laughs, hugs, wishes, presents and love.

In all this the small figure of baby Jesus in the creatively done up nativity scene was still a major draw and the first place to go to for visitors. Each year we would do it in a different theme. For many years we used to decorate it with grass grown from wheat or mustard seeds. The kings, sheep and the shepherds were the ones on the grass. Some years we will have a hut to house Jesus, Mary, Joseph, two cows and a donkey with Archangel Gabriel perched on its roof. Some years it will be a rocky cave. A couple of years it was snow created by cotton wool.

fontanini_christmas_crib_11_a

I miss all those little pleasures we had while growing up. My children are unfortunately not experiencing Christmas the way we used to experience it. And it’s truly a loss which they cannot even comprehend.

The coming of Jesus is so filled with deep meaning that it is now lost in the commercialisation of this festival. It marks the end of the separation of God and man and uniquely bonded man with God through Jesus. We have been incepted with the Divine DNA after His coming and man can raise himself up to his divine nature and drop the animal within him. We now possess the ability to rise ourselves higher than our crass earthly needs that the body was born with. This conflict between our divine yearnings and our earthly needs is the dance of life that we live on a daily basis. Who wins or who loses determines the quality of our life and our destiny.

Look within you. Be aware of this internal tussle. This season, let the divine rule within you and see how blissful life can be when you have Him as your Lord!

Thank you dear Lord for ruling over my thoughts, my emotions and my life. I surrender to thee and will gladly do thy will.