Driving down the road towards our home, we are engulfed on both sides by brightly lit bushes, trees, snowmen, santa, the occasional train model, even a wierd looking cartoonish blob that remotely resembles a christmas tree. The edges of the homes are covered in dainty little yellow lights, mixed with blinking purples and red and green. The couple of snow falls that we have had since early december, add the final touch to the Christmas feel as romanticized in the children's books that we all grew up reading. Turn on the radio and almost every FM station you tune into has a rock, jazz, country or classical version of the christmas carols blaring. Yes, it definitely feels like Christmas. In fact, by the time its the 26th of December, you are thankful that this overload of cheer is finally done with.
I write this as we are busy preparing a plum cake (baked at home, indian style) for our Christmas party. As I was mixing the dough, I was reminded of christmases long gone by. Christmas was definitely a unique experience growing up, because in a town comprising of 3 christian families, the neighbours definitely were very curious about this wierd celebration during the cold winter months. The church from a nearby town would send down its choir for the Carol singing and the kids from the neighbourhood gathered to hear the orchestra on the move. I would be practically terrified of the attention this yearly display brought onto our family. My parents cherished it because it probably reminded them of their childhood growing up amidst church and carol singing. No such luck for me as I dreaded the questions my friends in the neigbourhood would ask me the next day. "So who was the fat guy in the funny suit ?" "Is he related to you guys ?"
Two things that I eagerly waited for during this season was the baking of the cake and the Christmas tree. I would be the errand guy, buttering the pan, grinding up the spices, getting the zest out of the orange rind, cleaning and drying out the raisins. Then of course after the cake mix was poured, I would have the honor of cleaning out the mixing bowl with my fingers. Today in hindsight, that would have been considered a health hazard because of the raw eggs in the mix, but then when you are a kid, its "Bacterium - Step aside - Big daddy is coming over."
Decorating the Christmas tree was a saga of its own. Consider this; In the middle of a temperate deccan plateau, a fir, pine or spruce was almost unheard of. So what does one do ? The alternative, a conifer that is grown as a hedge tree in homes and parks. The first evergreen conifer that we used as a Christmas tree was literally stolen from a park. (I was not involved in the actual stealing by the way..nor were anyone from my direct family. Somehow the tree was found lying in our backyard, probably left there by Santa's elves... wink wink.) After that christmas we planted our own evergreen conifer in the yard to use as a live christmas tree. Ok, now that we had solved the problem of finding a tree, what about the decorations ? Unlike our current Christmas tree in front of the bay window, which we decorated by buying a truck load of buntings and lights from Home Depot, my childhood trees were decorated with improvised glitter. We made do with sparkly streamers and little string lights. Painted cubes of thermocol made up the gifts hanging from the branches. The brightly colored eggs were missing and little balloons took their place. Kids and adults from the entire neighbourhood would come home to take a peek at the christmas tree. No one had seen such a tree other than in movies or in books.
As tonight's cake bakes, the aroma is definitely kicking up some old memories. Hot cake fresh from the oven is something to die for even without memories attached to them.
Before signing off for the long weekend, may this be a merry Christmas for everyone. May there be peace on earth. May the coming New Year be a pivotal year in everyone's lives, may all our dreams turn into reality, may there be less suffering and misery in the world and above everything else, may we all strive to be better human beings. God bless.