Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’


gifts1Gift-wrapping is something that I love doing. My earliest memories are gift-wrapping empty boxes to be kept as decoration underneath our plastic Christmas tree.

The gayily-wrapped gift boxes of course didn’t have anything in them. But one of my little cousins, unaware of the illusion, proceeded to tear open the gifts under the tree the minute his mother’s back was turned on him. Soon he had the entire drawing room strewn with string, ribbons and wrapping paper. I arrived on the scene to find him opening a box.

Then all hell broke loose! I was furious with him and screamed (being 12, and apt to take them things very personal). He was furious with the box (he was four and vociferous), for proving empty and screamed. And all the parents were furious when they saw the mess created and they also screamed. gift2

Since, he had string, ribbons, cellotape and glue all over him, he was taken off for a bath and I was ordered to sweep up the mess. After which, I was ordered to hang up the presents on the tree (leaving less place for my other Christmas ornaments).

My attempts at Christmas decorations have always proved dangerous. Once I hung up a glittery “Happy Christmas” handmade sign atop the doorway, only to have it crashing down on the visiting pastor’s head.

And then the other time when I hung up, fake icicles and gold-painted fir cones on the hallway, the entire chain came down on my grandmother who was carrying the pal-payasam to the dining room. The pal payasam, needless to say, was uneatable and my grandma sore. After gift3which, there were new orders that I was to restrict my decorations to the drawing room.

But I was not the only one with the butterfingers; my dad and my granddad were equally inept at putting up the Christmas star. And then again, I had a few superstitious relatives, who always commented on the fact that we were hanging our star the wrong side up, so that instead of being David’s star, it became the star used for black magic.

And then there was the time, when I decided I’d hang up strings of pop-corn instead of the usual electric lights and didn’t bother to tell my parents about my decision. The next morning, we woke up to an army of gift4ants feasting on our tree. And no one was able to get within an inch of it. I had also hung up some real apples on the tree with the result that some of the branches had snapped with the strain and broke a crystal vase, filled with flowers, which ruined the carpet especially put out for Christmas. After which, I was issued a big list of “Do’s and Don’ts for Christmas.”

P.S. I’ve put up a few pictures of the gifts I had wrapped for Diwali for my office people.

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Since I’m still on the right side of my twenties, I need not hide the fact that I’m going to be 24 in two weeks time. October 21, 1984 was the happy day I was born on. There was widespread unrest, killings and violence soon after I was born. Not because of the birth of the great me, but because former PM Indira Gandhi got killed around that time, as a result of communal violence.

My birthday also heralds the arrival of Diwali. As a toddler, my mother used to tell me the whole city of Chennai was celebrating my birthday with fireworks and sweets. The sweet fiction lasted till I was five years old; by then I had figured out it was Diwali people were celebrating, not my birthday. Still I always got terrible excited…Being a Christian kid was no deterrent to celebrating Diwali and bursting fire crackers. For the neighbourhood ragamuffin gang of kids – thats me and my friends, the order of the day was bursting crackers and bingeing on sweets. We also got to sample all the goodies, prepared by our mommas and aunties (we would of course have to reciprocate the gesture with cakes and biriyani during Christmas, just like our Muslim neighbours were expected to invite us over for dinner during the end of Ramzan).

For me Diwali, Christmas, Ramzan or Pongal celebrations were always pan-Indian and brought out the best of secular India. My family’s faith in no way affected our whole-hearted celebration of these festivals.

And October is also the month of many holidays – Gandhi Jayanthi (the day that turns every Indian a teetotaller), Ayoodha Pooja, Vijaya Dasami and Diwali. Only once, Diwali fell on my birthday and I could not get decked up in ribbons & lacey dresses and show off at school. Wearing your birthday dress to school was an important event in the life of a school kid. Since you had to wear the school uniform the whole year round, wearing your colourful birthday dress made you the star of the day. Also most schools sing “Happy birthday” during the Assembly session after morning prayers. Many a times, I was the only one in the school celebrating my birthday on that day, so the whole school would sing “Happy Birthday to Rachel Chitra..” instead of “Happy Birthday dear children…” Gave a kid quite a high!

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For a short time, I worked as a vacation bible school teacher in our area when I was 18. I was totally unprepared for the amount of questions the kids asked me…

For starters, we were reading the Nativity scene.

One of the kids ask me: How was Jesus born?

Me: Jesus was born in a manger. He was a really sweet baby and all the angels came to sing after he was born….

Kid stops me with: But how did he become God’s son? Did God adopt him

Me: No! No! God didn’t adopt him. He’s God’s son.

Kid: (Silent…in deep thought…finally exclaims) So Mary is God’s wife!

Me: (Feeling trapped) No! Well….. Mary is Joseph‘s wife. But the Holy Spirit visited her and told he she would become pregnant…And Jesus was born

Another kid: Out of an aeroplane? My mother says babies are dropped out of aeroplanes.

First kid: Don’t be stupid! They didn’t have aeroplanes then

Another kid: You are only stupid! You said Mary was God’s wife. Ha Ha

(More words! A fight breaks out. I untangle the two little, fighting furies and send them off to wash their face and drink a glass of water. I pretend nothing has happened and continue with the lesson)

Me: So Jesus was born in a manager with goats and cows, because they had no place to stay…

Another bright kid #3: How bad! Cows stink, they keep on shitting….We have a manger near our place

Kid #4: They don’t stink. We have cows. They are nice

Me: No talking in class.

(I proceed with the class, ignoring all interruptions. My bad luck, our pastor came to see how my class was faring and so did the two little warring heroes)

Pastor: So how is everybody today? What did you learn?

Kid #4: Jesus was very poor. His mother had no money to go to a hospital. So she went to a hotel. The hotel told her to go away. So she went to a cow stall and had a baby. Joseph helped her. Angels then sang “Happy Birthday.”

(I blushed red at this highly-coloured version of the Nativity scene. The pastor turned to the next boy)

Pastor: So why do we celebrate Christmas

Kid #5: Because its Santa’s birthday

(Severely embarrassed, I cringe)

Pastor: (In a patient tone) Christmas is celebrated because Christ was born on that day. That is why everyone celebrates Christmas……

From the next year, no one invited me to teach at the Vacation Bible School, and I have a strong feeling that this pastor was involved in the decision

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