Changing Christmas Traditions
Give, and it will be given to you- 2 Corinthians 8:12
An important part of Christmas celebrations is the Christmas menu for the main meal of the day. An array of delicacies is part and parcel of the culture and tradition of different countries. While in Western countries, a roast turkey may take the central place on the table along with delectable add-ons, in India we
have a potpourri of different cuisines, some borrowed and some traditional, but undoubtedly the best from all worlds.
Going a few decades down memory lane to an era of home-made goodies and cakes, preparations for the Christmas bonanza commenced by the end of November. In each Christian household, it was time to buy the special variety of grapes to make wine with, and heaps of dry fruit were carefully cut and soaked in brandy in readiness for the marathon cake baking that would follow a few weeks later. Of course, only a small portion of these and other delicacies were meant for the family. My own school days were spent in New Delhi where there was a set pattern for the entire Christmas week. On Christmas Day, soon after attending Holy Mass, our doors were thrown open to our non-Christian neighbors and friends who were in and out of the house the entire day. They wished us and admired the Christmas décor as we offered them cake and wine and other sweets. We also had the task of taking a plate of goodies to our closest
non- Christian neighbors. The rest of the Christmas week was spent exchanging visits within the small Christian community we belonged to. By New Year, innumerable cakes and several bottles of home-made wine were exhausted as one more Christmas was behind us, celebrated as a community with neighbors and friends of every caste and creed
These traditions are on the decline due to various reasons. People don’t brew and bake for neighbors and friends anymore. The new generation is prone to nomadic habits as far as workplaces and jobs are concerned. Face-to-face relationships are a dying concept and community building through shared happiness during festivals is outdated in today’s world. Added to this, the fires of communal disharmony festering in the country have capped what was left of neighborhood communities. The final nail on the
coffin of community celebrations was the commencement of the pandemic, which bolted the door in the face of individuals and families who were already receding into the confines of their individual homes.
Tennyson’s oft quoted saying comes to mind –‘The old order changeth’ as we perceive how our present circumstances have prized communities apart, and established strict norms of social distance between the members of social groups. The ‘old order’ has undoubtedly changed, but we now need to see if it is ‘yielding place to the new’. We are all aware of the number of people -business persons, artists, labourers and so many others, who are now on a sinking ship. The signs of poverty are manifest as people quietly pull their children out of private schools and seek admission in government schools, as debt burdens drive people to suicide, as people fight to keep their heads above water. We need to share our Christmas joy with those whose home and kitchen has slowly been stripped bare with the burden of disease and debt. As we plan our Christmas menu, we must build beyond our immediate family. It is simply not enough to send a small share of goodies to your maid’s family or to share a piece of cake with the office staff working with us. Christmas can only be meaningful if it accounts for those who simply cannot afford to plan a menu for their families. With whatever means we have, we must be concerned with the growing numbers, who may be out of sight because of our limited social contact, but are definitely out there looking forward bleakly to another poverty-ridden Christmas.
From this year onwards, let us resolve to cater for many more than just the immediate family, as our parents used to do. This time, however, we can share this with our less fortunate brethren and make their Christmas as bright as ours. As the old traditions fade away, let us establish new traditions of value, to be taken forward by the next generation. We can rest assured that the Lord who multiplied five loaves and two fishes to feed five thousand will do the same with whatever we offer to Him and to His people