There is something special about Christmas, which is not necessarily linked to its religious nature. Of course, for Christians the primary importance of the season stems from its religious associations: the universally accepted occasion for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. I said ‘season’ and not ‘day’ because in the eastern European countries like Russia, where the Churches like the Russian Orthodox Church do not follow the Gregorian calendar, the Christmas day falls on January 4th and not December 25th.
Christmas, as a festival, comes around at the right time of the year, when the temperatures are down and people are likely to be more genially disposed to others. We have worn tired of the present year with all its travails and cares, and now look forward to the New Year which is almost around the corner; it is the season for renewal and hope, when the air is bristling with positive vibes and expectations of better days.
In the West Christmas has long outgrown its strict religious significance and have become the year’s most visible celebration of human happiness, cutting across all segments of people. I do not think in other places too the picture is different. I remember, in Kerala too, Christmas used to bring that same feeling of well being and cheer, and the celebration was not limited to Christians.
My memories are of the 60’s and 70’s. Even in those gloomy decades of economic downswing, even in the impoverished interiors of the Central Travancore, Christmas used to bring a palpable cheer, joy to the people in the midst of their struggles and hardships: the world in general was a good place and held out hopes for a better tomorrow. Superficially, the decorations and the festivities would look tame compared to that of present days, because the resources were scarce. But the lone ‘Christmas star’ at the top of the tree in the courtyard looked as bright as, or even brighter than, the whole display of buildings/houses and trees festooned and lighted up with expensive electric light systems these days.
The ‘crib’ was a tame affair and much improvisation and almost no money went into its making. The statuettes of the holy family surrounded by the three kings, shepherds, the sheep, and other animals were ill-matched. Sometimes the Infant was of larger size than the Mother, and exotic animals like reindeers and penguins, and even a three-legged elephant (which was smaller than the sheep on which it leant for support!), were in the crowd. A chipped statuette of the angel Gabriel hung above the Infant on a piece of thread, rotating in the air at the slightest breeze. All of it made a fine picture and we were happy and contented. It was Christmas.
And the Carol singing! (Cont'd)