Thursday, December 08, 2005

'Tis the season to be merry.......

So it's December again. The snow is here, winter has set in, the stores are decked out in their holiday display, people are ice skating, houses are adorned in twinkling lights and lawns are a display of lighted reindeers and Santas, children are happy writing letters to Santa, parents are scratching their heads figuring out what to buy, the post office is overflowing with holiday mail, grocery stores are resplendant in red poinsettias, charities are collecting "Toys for Tots", and everyone has plans for spending time with the family or friends. Yes, it feels like December. The culmination of yet another year and the anticipation of starting out afresh in the new one. With hundreds of resolutions and countless aspirations and abundant hope.

Back in India December had always been special. Final exams would be over and schools would close for the year. That meant no studying, no holiday homework, and nothing to do but having a good time. December meant Christmas and although it had very little religious connotation in my life, I always looked forward to Christmas. I would sit down and laboriously make my own greeting cards which invariably had a theme of snow and Santa and Christmas trees. I would make one for my family, one for my maternal grandparents and one for Sister J, who was the principal of my school. And on Christmas morning I would go visit Sister J in school (the convent was adjacent to the school building) who would be thrilled to see us and would give us some cake that she had baked the night before. This was a tradition I maintained until I started going to college and heard Sister J had been transferred to some other school in South India.

Other memories of Christmas include going to a mid-morning wine and cheese party at the Woodlands Nursing home with my parents where I would stuff myself with brownies, except I did not know that they were called brownies and used to refer to them as tiny chocolate cakes. Then we would go for a sumptous lunch at the Calcutta club followed by the Christmas party at the Calcutta Rowing Club. There would always be a Santa who would arrive by boat to distribute toys and other goodies to the children who would be frantically waving and screaming from the lake shore. And of course there would be things like "Sit and Draw" and "Fancy Dress" and children's races which had a tremendous amount of participation. It always was a day spent with the family. And it always was fun.

Now years later, far removed from the Christmas scene in Calcutta I still cannot help feeling all happy and mushy just thinking about Christmas. I see the smile on people's face and it makes my day. I hear Christmas carols and it fills my heart with joy. I stand and admire the beautiful Christmas decorations and imbibe the happiness that seems all pervasive. For the first time this year I put up a Christmas tree in my living room and decked it all out with lights and sparkling balls. People have pointed out that I am overdoing it and the US is turning me into a Christian. And I tell them there is nothing religious about having a Christmas tree in your house. It is more cultural than religious. And yes, I grew up learning not to differentiate or discriminate between religion. I have been to temples and churches and mosques and gurdwaras.....I have a Gita, a Bible and a Quoran at home, I have a "Thakurer ashon" and do Lakhsmi Pujo on Thursdays, I have slept with a Bible under my pillow for years and I have partaken of the feast laid out after Id. So what does that make me? A human being, I hope.

And yes the US has changed me. I am careful to wish people "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas", I buy greeting cards that veer away from statements about Christmas but instead say things like "Best wishes for the New Year" and never ask people what they are doing for Christmas, but instead "what are your plans for the holidays". But to me it is still Christmas.....it is still time for the family and presents from Santa and huge dinners and fruit cake and eggnog. Here's wishing everyone a happy holiday and the very best for the year that is to come.

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22 Comments:

Blogger Dreamcatcher said...

that was a heartfelt post brimming with nostalgia. Very touching.Merry Christmas in advance and happy holidays J

12:22 PM  
Blogger satchisgod said...

For some reason, "x-mas" would mean a religious trip to the Calcutta Zoo. I've no clue why, but we always went there. And also "moya" and "patali gur". Merry Christmas!

1:15 PM  
Blogger Bidi-K said...

Isn't it nice to have a tree? :) and to put up the decorations. It always warms my heart... and for me Christmas and New year means Unicef cards to send to all my friends and relatives and they always said Season's Greetings!

2:54 PM  
Blogger DD said...

your posts make me feel better. this one refreshed some memories that i'd completely lost touch with.

december meant reading a LOT of books, listening to great music in different concerts all over Calcutta and watching all the movies screened at theatres near dhormotola. and even before that, winter meant spending cozy afternoons with few rays of the dying sun, with thakuma, eating one komola lebu after another, listening to her stories that bore a charm that the present times lack.

happy holidays!

3:55 PM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ dreamcatcher thanks and will wish you the same again later.
@ biplab my earliest memories were having a family picnic at the Zoo which was given up primarily due to the huge crowds that turned up. Because my grandfather was the doctor for all the Zoo employees we got special favors and did not need to wait in line to get a ticket. The huge gates would be thrown open to let our troops in. And don't even get me started on patali gur and notun gurer sandesh!
@ kaushik-bidisha I agree....cards back home all had seasons greetings on them :)
@ dd dover lane music conference....was it in Dec or later? I know it was always really cold at that time. Loved it. And eating komola lebu....I guess we all grow up with similar memories....thanks for reminding me.

4:06 PM  
Blogger Ron said...

Like Sagnik said, your posts are so easy to relate to. Christmas was never a matter of religion(I dont even consider Durga Pujo a religious festival)..it was just a time for decorating Christmas trees and singing Christmas carols in school, and sending greeting cards, and telling my parents what I thought Santa would bring me( I believed in Santa Claus, maybe I belonged to the last generation that did)and eating fruit cakes and plum cakes from Flurys...
Ah well..Happy Holidays to you and B :-)post a picture of your Christmas tree.

8:41 AM  
Blogger Rimi said...

m, i figured i'd stop commenting here, because, you know...same old, same old. "m, your posts are so evocative. m, it brought back a lot of delicious memories.great post, m, thank you!" and so forth. seriously, there's only so many times a girl can repeat herself.

tell me, seriously, though, how do you do it?

9:33 AM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ ron I still believe in Santa Claus so cheer up. I guess we're still kids and I hope we can stay that way. The picture will come too.
@ rimi *blush blush blush* Did you know that compliments are always welcome and warm your heart no matter how cliched or how untrue? Please keep stopping by and saying these delightful things about me. I love it :)And I'll pretend to believe everything that you say. Thanks for giving me a nice start to my day.

9:43 AM  
Blogger Eastmancolour said...

...
Was listening to "Standing in Motion" - Yanni, while reading this post.
Came here through Melchizedek's blog. very nice and... Blytonish :) it's nice. I liked reading it.

wish you a very good time and also a great year ahead.

cheers

4:36 PM  
Blogger A Hairy Snail said...

Wow. As always you make memories come back in technicolour. :) Thanks.

I think we Indians prove that one line in our constitution right always - We are a sovereign...secular...country. Secularity is inbred in us. And shows itself in weird little ways like our joy in celebrating every festival - whether they have anything to do with us religiously or not.

But one question - this thing struck me as odd: why do you wish people "Happy Holidays"? What's wrong with the "Merry Christmas"?

5:16 AM  
Blogger A Hairy Snail said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:17 AM  
Blogger Someone Somewhere said...

Christmas was always my favourite time of the year :)

7:20 AM  
Blogger Grafxgurl said...

well its starting here in india as well.. being careful about wishing someone Merry Christmas...wen we design our cards we have to name is Season's Greetings...sigh..

kinda feel restricted...the word CHRISTMAS sounds so....well.. yummy!

and i dont like calling it X-Mas... what the heck does that mean!! iveheard some christians find it offensive... hmm...

2:02 PM  
Blogger Acroyali said...

hey, that brings back my memories of christmas. of school and of the campus i lived in. thanx :)

and wish u the best for the festive season ahead.

5:25 AM  
Blogger Sanity Starved said...

Happy Holidays :)

4:32 PM  
Blogger Point 5 said...

Wish u happy holidays. As u put it, for most ppl X-mas doesnt hold any religious connotations...it's just a time to have fun with friends and relatives

10:13 PM  
Blogger Ashmi said...

oh!as usual a lovely post.yes christams means a lot to me as well coz having studied in a convent,i enjoyed long holidays which meant waking up late and staying in bed,under the warm quilt for long :-),it also was the time when my aunts would come from abroad and i would be eagerly waiting for them to unpack their big suitcase and gift me the special present they've brought and i would a wide smile instantly flash on my face...oh!they were the golden days...now all that remains are sweet memories...anyways wish you a very happy christmas in advance!

3:21 AM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ eastmancolour thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Keep coming by....
@ arindam I don't find anything wrong with people wishing Merry Christmas....except for some people who hold religious bias find it offensive because it has a religious tang to it and does not address everyone in general. Happy Holidays is considered more politically correct. I find it amusing.
@ someone somewhere good to see you back here and hope you have a great time this holiday.
@ grafxgurl I agree the word "Christmas" brings up all kinds of yummy thoughts like cookies and cakes and eggnog and warm fireplaces....
@ acroyali you're back? how was everything?
@ pidus ghosh thanks for coming back here and same to you!
@ point 5 beats me why people want to restrict having fun by having self inflicted bias and not celebrating special occassions.
@ ashmi I can so identify with what you are saying esp the warmth of the blanket that is so hard to give up in the December morning. I hope you have a wonderful festive season too.

9:10 AM  
Blogger sinusoidally said...

It must be nice decorating the tree. You have some really good memories from Calcutta. I have never had a christmas tree. I wanted to go see the tree at Rockefellar center this year...wonder if it is up..

10:33 AM  
Blogger Siddharth said...

You have a great blog going here....

Thanks for dropping by...and I hope that it didnt actually make you cry,coz that would make me feel awful...
Season's Greetings BTW!! :)

12:40 AM  
Blogger A Hairy Snail said...

Whatever the world is coming to.

Anyways, since you take no offence, a very merry christmas to you. :)

4:05 AM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ sines it is always fun decorating around the house. You should go visit Rockefeller center. I've heard it is gorgeous this time of the year.
@ siddharth thanks for stopping by and yes you had a very heartfelt post there....something I could identify with a lot. Happy holidays to you too!
@ arindam thank you and hope you have a great holiday too!

9:04 AM  

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