Christmas is a state of mind:)
The spirit of Christmas…..been hearing it since the last few days…….my students have been asking questions about Christmas.’’What do we do on Christmas?’’ ‘’Why is it celebrated?, ‘’Who Is Jesus?’’,’’ Is he like Lord Rama?or like Wahe Guru?’ ‘ The list of questions goes on and on and on. I have kids from all religions in my class…..figure that if we had Parsis and Buddhists we would have covered all the bases. 🙂
The one concept that the kids absolutely love is that of Santa Claus…most of them can visualise him as a benevolent grandfatherly figure who gives chocolates, gifts and toys galore to kids of all ages .And that’s precisely why they love him. Imagine a superhero kinda guy (they think of him as the equivalent of Shaktiman or Superman ..)who exists solely for kids…it simply boggles their mind!!!!:)Though its hard for them to visualise the north pole because most of them have never seen snow,though the pictures fascinate them.
At the school,we make sure that we celebrate all kinds of festivals so that the children have an understanding of the various cultures and religions .In India, Christmas is just one of the many beautiful festivals that we celebrate. Here, one has the best of both the worlds. You end up celebrating everything from Diwali to Dussehra, Christmas, Holi, the birth of Mahavira, of Lord Buddha, Of Guru Nanak,Of lord Rama, of Krishna, of sundry other gods and goddesses.
Celebrating Eid And Diwali has always been a one of a kind experience for me. I can never forget the savoury sweets I got,the money one got from elders as a token…..the new clothes…..everything. All festivals then are pretty same at the core if seen from a kid’s eyes.:)
I am an army brat through and through…and so being one I grew up in a multi-cultural environment. We had a mandir, a gurudwara, a mosque, a church in all army units we were in.(All army units in India have one of each and even of other religions according to need) Isn’t that the beauty of India? 🙂 We are according to the Constitution a secular country and so each festival is celebrated at the same level and each one’s a national holiday.
Since the past few days I have been pondering over a phrase that’s been making the rounds. ‘The Spirit of christmas’ and also been surrounded by the whole Christmas hype.(one gets swept along:)). It’s the spirit of love, tolerance, giving, receiving(for receiving with an open heart is as important isn’t it?)
Out of all the festivals my most enduring memory has been of Christmas as a kid…..(yes even more than Diwali):)That’s coz all I can remember is the amount of awesome food that was laid out each Christmas.From plum puddings,gingerbread,custard,Chocolate cake,Rum balls,Brandy(fruit punch for us kids)Roast Turkey(never allowed to have it…My family follows Hinduism) But all in all, the various goodies on display were so mouth watering that the food remains my one abiding memory.Decorating the tree is another such memory,getting out all the decorations,the silver sparkling balls,the popcoern strings we made….and the miniature trees one had to make in Crafts class.:)
The other thing that I remember are the gifts,gifts of all shapes,sizes and colour.The packaging more attractive than the gift itself,of myriad hues,and the most amazing ,crinkly wrapping paper. I could never be meticulous about opening one though. One tear and I was done opening it.My best friend was positively finicky though.She opened it like it was a little baby in need of tender care.lol!and then carefully kept the paper aside.
Anyway in school we had this Santa claus who came in a sleigh pulled by deer.(Our school had a mini zoo)Imagine deer instead of reindeer!!boggles the mind doesn’t it?It was a sight to see….It was so funny,I now realize. At the time though ,we kids figured that as long as he was getting the presents it was all good.:)
In school we had to give presents to each other and also had to write one nice thing about each of our classmates.(in a class of 25)It was hard work…but it taught us a lot…If you try real hard ,you CAN see the good in each person. By the end of the day we were all rich ,two presents each ,courtesy the school and friends and notes listing what our classmates liked about us.
But it didn’t end there .In the evening we had to go to the Army club to attend XMAS BASH as it was called. We had to sing dance, play musical chairs, play games and win gifts. And THEN another Santa came and gave us presents (this time from our parentsEXACTLY at midnight!! Imagine!!! Two santas in a day!! That was a lil kiddie heaven right there.!!:)
One of the most enduring memories of Christmas has also been of the various stories one grew up with ,told by mom, dad and the teachers.And also by parents of friends who were Christians.I have a story that I remember for each stage in my life.
When I was a kid of 5 or 7 I remember being in awe of the whole story of the birth of Christ. I used to look at the displays and found them fascinating. You could see the three wise men kneeling,baby Jesus in his mother’s arms…the sheep…the straw….the whole display made beautifully and lovingly by many hands.
Then when I grew up to be around 12 or so, I remember ‘A Christmas Carol’as a story that moved me.A transformation of an old dried,miserly,old man into someone who realizes the beauty of Christmas.It never ceased to amaze me.(still does:))The ghosts of past and present?It was sheer brilliance.And still can’t forget’Bah !Humbug!’
And then……..and then in my teens, I re- read ‘The Gift Of The Magi’. Who has not fallen in love reading it? Of Jim and Della,of selflessness and sacrifice,of thinking only of the other person little knowing that the other person is doing the same.It was and still remains a beautiful story.It has at its heart all the elements that Christmas is all about.(appealed to my romantic soul:))
And infact what essentially all festivals are about. Aren’t all festivals celebrated by us as a symbol of something?Of the triumph of good over evil?of celebrating the birth of an avataar,of a messiah?of celebrating a homecoming?of life itself?A festival is not just festive,it is not just a feast for the body,but also one for the for the mind and for the soul .In honour of something ,of a god,of a way of life,of a birth,of seasons.Call it what you will….at the heart of it, it is essentially a way to get people together,to forge bonds of brotherhood,of peace ,of harmony.And most of all hope….for where would we be without hope?
Praying for Mumbai and those who are gone…wishing India and the world peace,prosperity,hope and happiness. Lets leave the crass commercialism behind ,something that plagues all festivals today and get down to what tthey essentially meant.Share the stories with kids ,of all religions,of all cultures….And keep the spirit alive and kicking…help your kids believe for as long they can in Santa,in good,in the beauty of the world and in that of mankind. MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!!:)