Christmas is not only a religious commemoration, it is also a celebration of love, kinship and tradition. It is loaded with hope and anticipation and I think people generally go through a gamut of emotions and feelings at this time of the year. As the much awaited Christmas day is around the corner, like everybody else I’m looking forward to having a good time, and yet, I cannot shake off the unmistakable feeling of nostalgia and longing for past Christmas celebrations.
Christmas is celebrated with fervour around the world and though religious rituals and festivities are similar, there are traditions which are unique to a family or community. Culture, history, circumstance or location influences the rise of Christmas traditions around the world.
Back home in my village in Manipur, Christmas celebration is a week-long affair and come December, the whole village is abuzz with activities and preparations start full tilt. Young and old alike join in with gusto as there’d be meetings and rehearsals for competitions and performances.
Christmas music would fill the cold winter air, Boney M and Jim Reeves on full volume from every corner. My family would begin with a rigorous spring- cleaning and decorating our home, which is a joy with everybody chipping in. Then we’d go shopping and prepare sticky rice cakes and smoked bacon.
As with any festival, socialising is on a full-on mode and dinner invitations would start making the rounds and there would be get-togethers and fund-raisers with our friends or pot-luck meals with our neighbours. On the Eve of Christmas, my parents would gather us around and we’d have a family worship, listening to our parents narrating the story of the birth of Christ and then we’d have a special prayer before supper. After that we go carolling and head to church for the midnight service.
The next morning on Christmas day, after a hearty brunch, we’d gather in the village ground and the festivities would begin. Games and sports, skits, singing and fancy dress competitions would be held and participants awarded with soaps, detergents and jaggery!
Almost everyone participates with enthusiasm; the excitement generated is almost palpable. At night there would be a bonfire gathering, with the village stand-up comedians taking centrestage and regaling us with songs and jokes while we have cups of hot water and lumps of jaggery. These festivities continue till New Year`s day.
We may not have much, but we make sure that we have a good time because Christmas is our biggest festival and it is about love and sharing and goodwill towards one another. One may or may not be a believer, but Christmas always brings out the best in us.