It really is.
Growing up in Bombay, Christmas comes along when the weather is the best the city has to offer, and so as soon as there’s a nip in the air, one begins to feel like Christmas. Then, in the run-up, my mum would start making traditional sweets, which to be honest I was happy to substitute chocolate for but I did love looking at those plates of sweets that would circulate. A couple of weeks before Christmas we would put up a tree, originally a spindly one that was essentially made of green bottle cleaners, but god I loved that tree. I would spend ages decorating it and then playing with the snowmen, angel and other ornaments, making up my own Faraway Tree-style stories. We also had a small crib and I spent some time over those weeks moving around the animals and arranging the hay. (Note to self: Get a crib next year).
In the weeks before Christmas there would be a Christmas party in our building and much excitement involved guessing which uncle was playing Santa (my dad is now often recruited). We also usually went to one at the local gymkhana. So we were all primed for festivities by the time the actual day dawned.
When we were younger, we never went to Midnight Mass, but usually attended the 8 am mass on Christmas day after which my sister and I got to choose an enormous balloon from the street vendors. Then, home to open presents. My mother would dash around distributing sweets to the neighbours, and sometimes we’d visit older relatives nearby. Then there’d be a huge family lunch in one of my aunt’s houses. It was rarely at our house because my mum has a birthday in the week and usually did a party then. More presents and food coma at the party, which ended only in the early evening.
When we grew older, we started going for Midnight Mass, sometimes with (boy) friends (how sad for our parents) and parties or the Christmas dance. One had to do something, though the family lunch tradition still remained and now that’s the past I cherish and miss the most.
Initially, after I moved to Hong Kong we always went home for Christmas, though unfortunately it was usually to V’s place. They also had a big family lunch but I never was comfortable enough to enjoy it entirely. One year V’s family visited and that was actually nicer. We had bought a house and had a party on the terrace.
And then the kids came along and we built our own traditions. We decorate the house at the start of the month. We generally traipse around the malls and admire the decorations. One of my friends was saying how annoying the incessant carols on the music system are, but I love Christmas carols so much I listen to them all year round, so complaints from me on that count.
This year, much to V’s chagrin, my office let us go home at 1 pm (normally it’s his office that is better about early release before festivals). I booked a facial and had a couple of hours of bliss. Then V came home and cooked up a storm for a big Christmas Eve dinner with our helpers as they were off on Christmas day for a celebration with friends. V did an awesome roast chicken and a sausage in cranberry sauce dish, and we bought a cake. The kids opened presents, we gave our helpers their Christmas bonus, and there was a surprise gift for me – a Macbook Air. I’ve been craving one for so long, but V always deemed it pointlessly expensive. But our current laptop is missing a few keys thanks to Mimi, so it was time for a new one and I’m super happy ‘Santa’ decided in my favour on the choice of device. While it’s supposed to be mine, V spent every free minute over the next couple of days tinkering with it. I hope I get into a PhD programme so I have lots to write on it.
On Christmas Day, we went to church with our helpers, which is another tradition we’ve instituted. It’s a little pointless because the church our helpers attend is way across town and the kids get angsty in 15 minutes, so we might opt for a church closer to home next year. Nevertheless, Christmas Mass never fails to move me and remind me what the festival is all about, and I wish I had caught more of it.
V and I then took the kids for an early lunch to a pizza place as Benji had to been asking to “go to a restaurant” for some time. Turned out to be quite pointless as the kids fidgeted endlessly and didn’t eat that much. In the evening, we Skyped with both sides of the family while they were in the throes of their family lunches.
In Hong Kong, the day after Christmas is an optional holiday and since our helpers were home, we took the opportunity to have a deferred big fat Christmas lunch…in this case an Indian buffet which lasted three hours.
V and I have really been in a good place since the start of the week. It’s like we both flipped a switch and we’re super loving and into each other. It’s too early to say if it’s permanent, but it does make Christmas that much more joyful.
I also decided to send Christmas cards to a few near and dear ones, with personalised notes telling them how much they mean to me. I restricted the number because I wasn’t sure I had time to really write out my thoughts and I must confess I got ridiculously late. In fact, I still have a couple of go and quite a few people are going to get their cards in the new year. I don’t know if I will do this every year, but I’m glad I acted on the whim this year.
Did you celebrate Christmas? Hope loads of that festive joy came your way.