The other Christmas
Posted on December 22nd, 2018

Laksiri Warnakula

Journeying into the past, riding on a fading and fleeting memory is one of my favourite pastimes. And the ride I enjoy most is; ‘Letting myself lose in those reveries and then be at that starting line once again, waiting for the Mother Nature’s whistle for the ‘go’, the line being the boundary between the infant, the toddler, and then the child, who begins to look around with wide-eyed amazement and curiosity followed by insatiable inquiry and inquisitiveness’.

Fast forward the reel of these cinematic reveries and suddenly there I am, pedalling my father’s rusty Raleigh towards home with a branch of a ‘kasa’ tree firmly tied across the luggage plate of the bicycle. It’s time for the Christmas tree. Oh yes. It is Christmas next day.

The coastal township, where I grew up, was then more like a big village with only the slightest of signs of urbanization on display, the full invasion of which on all fronts was yet to come and still a good few years away. The majority of the people were fisherfolk, who were also almost hundred percent Catholics. And the Christmas season was one that they were all looking forward to, from day one of the year. Even the annual church feast and the end of the Lent culminating on Easter Sunday were somewhat behind the Christmas in terms of magnitude of the  cheer and the spirit that usually prevail during these Christian religious events.

And, in spite of the differences that existed amongst them, they all celebrated Christmas with what was available to each family. And the prevailing atmosphere was one imbued with an aura of peace and contentment, both material and spiritual. And I believe this contentment was mainly due to the simplicity of rural living, and a state of sobriety induced by the religious sentiments that prevailed in that neck of woods during the season, in particular.

Now back to the Christmas tree and the Nativity crib. As cypress and pine were beyond our means then, most of the kids had to be content with ‘Kasa’ (Casuarina equisetifolia) branches, probably one of the closest in appearance to the other two.

Having led the project of setting up the tree, I usually appointed myself as the person in-charge of the whole setup. Of course, my younger brother and sister had no problem with it and they never went too close to it without my express permission. Only our pet dog Tommy and the cat would go near it with their self-granted permissions, of course, and had a sniff around the tree though at nothing in particular, yet doing it anyway, whenever they felt like doing it.

The Nativity crib sat on a teapoy standing in front of the Christmas tree with its tiny clay figures of Joseph, Mary, the three wise men all kneeling down and few tiny sheep stood looking towards the baby Jesus sleeping peacefully in the manger, while a handmade Star of Bethlehem covered in glitter, a handiwork of a young boy, twinkled from above, sitting at the summit of the tree.

Yes. It was a simple and sweet Christmas. The sweet aroma of the Christmas cake, dough prepared by mother and baked at the bakery in the town centre filled the whole household. In the evening you could see and hear carol-singing groups of children accompanied by a Santa and few adults on foot or riding in bullock carts while, the ‘Silent night’ and the ‘Kalakata pera e Bethleheme’ (Long time ago in Bethlehem) tried their best to compete with sporadic bursts of firecrackers coming from all four corners of the village. The Christmas cards not the phone calls conveyed the ‘Season’s Greetings’ of loved ones from near and far.

It was another Christmas, a far cry from the Christmas of today, where the true meaning of it seems to be getting lost amid earthly glamour, glitter and glitz of commercialism. The celebrations are now becoming parties and carnivals that smack of a secular superficiality taking away the sanctity and the spirit surrounding the birth of ‘The Saviour’.

And as we celebrate and shower our loved ones with gifts and wishes of love and peace, let’s also not forget the hapless and the helpless. Let’s do our best to share the joy with them too and tell them that they are not forgotten.

Lastly, don’t let the gloom that the recent political drama brought upon the nation ruin the cheer and spirit of Christmas.

‘Render unto politicians what they rightly deserve! Render unto yourself what is rightly yours’.

Merry Christmas!

Laksiri Warnakula

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