Christians constitute only 2.3 percent of the population in India, but Christmas or "Bada din" (big day) as it is commonly called is celebrated across the country like any other Indian festival. Irrespective of their faith, people celebrate Christmas and believe in Santa Claus. Even Santa is known by different names, such as Santa Baba (term used for elderly) or Christmas Baba. But what's in a name – Santa across the world brings goodies and hope.
In India, Christmas also marks the beginning of winter break for schools, and a day before Christmas, students taking small table-top artificial trees and decorating material to their class is a common sight. In middle class families, including mine, hanging stockings by children on the night of Christmas eve in the hope that Santa Claus will leave a gift is as common a tradition as celebrating Diwali, the festival of lights. And equally common are parents who try to find a Christmas gift to put it in the stockings to see their children’s faces light up with joy. The cost of the gift does not matter. The excitement of getting one from Santa does. Ah, the sweet innocence of a young soul at its best.
What I liked most about Christmas as a child was that it was the beginning of the winter break, and that I would not have to wake up early to rush to school or do any homework. I remember putting on the red stocking beside my bed and waking up to find chocolates and cookies in it. What amazed me, though, was how Santa always knew to bring the same chocolates and cookies for me and my siblings. As I grew up, I started understanding the significance of Santa and the meaning of Christmas. It is about giving to others and about service. It is about happiness and sharing.
The pandemic last year reinforced the human need for helping and giving to others, the importance of gratitude, and being thankful to God or the supreme power, whoever we believe in, for keeping us safe. I asked a friend of mine what he wanted for Christmas. A "COVID vaccine for everyone” was his response. And so, I realized that the wishes have changed this year – from wishing for oneself to wishing for everyone.
I don't have a Christmas wish list. I am extremely happy for the holidays and thankful for all that I was able to achieve during the year. I have been spending lovely time with my townie friends, getting used to the trees covered with snow and snowflakes hitting the windshield of the car as we drive around the little town looking at houses decorated with Christmas embellishments and lit with luring lights. Unlike 2019, I could not go to spend Christmas with my sister in Texas, but I have made this little town my home, and this fills me with joy and comfort.
"Thank You is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding." Alice Walker