We miss celebrating Christmas in the way we spent it back in Mumbai. It just doesn't feel the same anymore. I guess for me the essence of the season is defined by the way I spent as a kid.
Back then the Christmas feeling crept in right from when we would plan on what to wear and shop way in advance to get our tailored clothes in time for the 25th. It officially started feeling like Xmas when Mama started preparing the sweets and the Christmas carols would play at home. Mama made Christmas simply amazing with all the wonderful sweets and food milk cream, marzapans, coconut cake, kulkuls, neories, sorpotel and of course the traditional Christmas special...stuffed chicken!!!!
We always had a very tall X'mas tree which was our pride and joy. Papa always made a wonderful crib, set in a foil cave with tiny statues of baby Jesus and sheep and camels. He would have a red bulb set up to act as a fire in the cave and an angel strung up above the cave. Needless to say there were a number of chips on the angels due to the countless sky diving accidents it had to bear. We always had a big star put up on the window and debated whether it was time to buy a new one or if we should wait for next year.
Christmas eve was always a mad rush with the last minute preparations from the food to the ironing of clothes. We always reached church almost an hour early in an effort to get the best seats for mass. I always had trouble keeping awake through the midnight mass :P but was wide awake to wish my friends afterward and was even more awake to see what Santa had laid under the tree for me. And he never failed to put presents under the tree. Early on, the presents magically appeared there when we got back from church and the gifts matched the letter we had sent to Santa a couple of weeks earlier. So we very much believed in Santa. (Spoiler alert ahead!!...) The magic was made possible by dropping of keys at my uncle's place before we left for church or by Papa being the last one to leave the house while we all piled up in the rickshaw on the way to church. Even when we solved the mystery of the appearing presents, Santa continued to leave me a hefty envelope signed by Santa in the tree with my name on it.
After mass, when we reached home, we would all sit in front of the crib with all the lights out and only "the fire" in the crib glowing along with the tree and the star light and would thank God for giving us yet another wonderful season to celebrate together. Then we cut some cake and would discuss the most ridiculous outfit at mass :P I would fall off to sleep looking at the lights change from red to blue to green to yellow.
The next day the stuffed chicken would be carved at lunch and we ate to our hearts content while sipping on some port wine. Of course, it was always followed by a nap and in later years excitement about going to the all night dances. I miss all of this.. the preparations, the hustle and bustle, the noise and the inevitable fights :P
There is nothing like home for Christmas. But I guess I can say that things have changed at home too....parents have moved to a new place, a new church, have a new tree and a new crib. The dances do not go all through the night anymore and friends have moved across the world. Papa and Mama miss having us at home. We have not celebrated Xmas together for a long time. Maybe soon Chris, Mama, and Papa can spend a white Xmas with Merwyn, Karl, and me here in the US.
I hope to slowly succeed in recreating some of the Xmas spirit, I have come to associate with my childhood. Now that we live in a foreign land it is difficult but hopefully new traditions will get started. I tried cooking stuffed chicken the last few years. Merwyn and Karl made a superb star 2 years ago which we now put up wherever we are celebrating Xmas. We have our 2.5 foot tree and this year we made some bath cake and vindaloo. On the 20th, we had a small get together with friends at my place in Baltimore. We had a nice time over dinner, chatting and playing games late into the night. Merwyn and I will try making milkcream this year and I hope to find a church with a large choir to go to for midnight mass. And Santa will definitely be leaving presents under the tree ;-)