Reflecting on a somewhat different Christmas

Courtesy: Dinodia Photo |
Courtesy: Dinodia Photo |Corbis Documentary Getty Images

Transcending boundaries, Christmas festivities are widespread around the globe and for one and all. It can be safely said that for the Global Indians, this season of light and merriment can often match the joy of Diwali. For us, the Global Indians, the expats, such festivities take on a whole new meaning with nostalgia being laced with it.

Come Christmas, the whole world brightens up with the twinkling Christmassy stars, lights, Christmas trees abound, gifts galore – and the wonderful ambience they all create is an experience in itself.

So how do we all relate to this festival of merrymaking?

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Cakes or Turkey

Memories! Scientists say they get imprinted in our brains with smell and then comes sight and touch.

Kolkata-born Arijit Mukherjee, who’s now settled in the UK, says, “Christmas means the smell of freshly baked plum cake that father often brought from the market around this time. This is Christmas to me”.

Kolkata indeed embraces the advent of Christmas with huge gatherings in Park Street, around St. Paul’s Church, gorgeous parties and bakery festivals even now.

Like many Indians who migrated to the UK, this 38-year-old British Indian IT professional found it a little difficult to replace that image of Christmas with a purely family-oriented Turkey roast dinner celebration when he first came to the UK 11 years back. “And not a single cake in sight! But well, I tasted the mincemeat pies for the first time here in the UK! ” exclaimed Arijit.

Like Kolkata, Kerala or Goa celebrates Christmas with Plum Cakes and wreaths and garlands. The UK, of course, celebrates Christmas with decorated Christmas trees, next to a fireplace - kids with their grandparents asking for more and more gifts that Santa can’t possibly afford down the chimney! And a traditional quiet family dinner with some roast. And perhaps nowhere in the world Christmas celebration is complete without some wine. Or is it?

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Music and Carols

For the British Indian oral historian, author, and creator of the famous Broon Scots Photography project, Hermann Rodriguez, the experience is a little different. Hermann had lived in Scotland for more than 30 years now. But his childhood Christmas memory of singing carols with friends and neighbours still takes precedence.

“Cakes, of course, there were very many. But no, not wine obviously,” Hermann laughs.

“So when I left India, Christmas was essentially the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. In the UK the contrast is very high. Here in the west, it is becoming increasingly commercialised. We’re now involved in shopping sprees, gifting galore and many other things but somewhere, essentially moving away from the central message.

The reality is that churches are almost declining. The only people making the churches active now are the neo-Indians, especially people migrating from Kerala. People sitting in India perhaps assume that religiously it is a huge thing in the west. But honestly, as an observer, I don’t think so,” he added.

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Giving and kindness

Bow Barracks is a locality in the central Kolkata region. The locality is a small hub of the mainly Anglo-Indian population who have lived here for generations. The families living here do not pay any rent for their stay, and the government has declared these buildings dangerous and unsafe.

This year, there’s a reason for double merriment for the residents here, as the authorities recently renovated this rich historical heritage of Kolkata and have been amazingly decorated for Christmas. Reportedly, one of the exclusive customs of Bow Barracks is that they brew their wine to usher in Christmas. Striking a perfect contrast to the capitalist world, such parts of India have always taken pride in being their happiest self, celebrating with meagre means.

For above everything else, and lest we forget, the main essence of Christmas is in helping the needy, giving, kindness and love. And here’s hoping for the New Year that this same kindness continues year-round for one and all.

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