What is the practice of Christmas today? For that matter what is the practice of any festival today? We buy some sweets, new clothes, rig up some decorations, put up the customary lantern or star, buy gifts for our family members, share a family meal with relatives and friends or most times eat out. Functional and tokenistic, right?
And what are our childhood memories of Christmas? I can vividly remember mine! Christmas began more than a month in advance! We would run to the nearby fields of Panjim to bring soil for the crib and sprinkle nachni seeds so that these would sprout in time, weeks later. Scouting for bamboo came next. We would also collect dry grass called corod from the fields or lateritic plateau or hills so that we could use this for the hut like structure for the crib. Making sweets like cake, bebinca, neureos and kulkuls was a routine that was followed and each day was designated for a specific sweet. I loved licking the left over cake batter! We would then cycle to Miramar beach or Campal to get branches of the Casurina tree that would be later decorated with streamers, real chocolates and candy. One of my favourite moments was to tie a string across the living room on which we would place Christmas cards that would arrive by post all through the month of December through New Year from relatives and friends. The stamps affixed on the envelopes would be saved into the stamp book and we would spend lazy afternoons discovering the details and icons on the stamps of our collection from across the world. We would have our own special parties in the evenings with our colony friends. We would visit every neighbour with a plate or tray laden with Christmas goodies. We would also make a community crib. We would have loads of visitors, relatives and friends, dropping in during the festive season. Yes Christmas at 14 was different and now at 44, it certainly has a different meaning.
What did I do this Christmas? On the 1st day of Christmas I forgave a friend when he humiliated me on social media. On the 2nd day I did not succumb to a relative’s bait to resort to a civil litigation. On the 3rd day I allowed an old friend who had betrayed me to enter into my home. On the 4th day I allowed another family member to take some assets without demanding for any compensation. On the 5th day I began writing about all the people in my life, present and past, in a positive manner, bringing honour instead of shame. On the 6th day I saved up money from my writing to buy waste components to make a composting toilet box for my community. On the 7th day I began the routine to share meals regularly with new children and people I met during community initiatives. On the 8th day I volunteered to help my new friend who is differently abled to regularly come to our parish church to help us with the children’s choir. On the 9th day I became the official driver to chauffeur my community friends and little children for workshops, errands and initiatives. On the 10th day I volunteered at one of my house construction sites as a labourer and mason. On the 11th day I began taking students and senior friends on nature trails and excursions because I wanted to share all that I had learnt from nature. On the 12th day I got into a rickety boat to help a friend clean up a polluted creek. On the 24th day I volunteered to dress up as Santa and in turn received so much affection from my friends from Camrabhat. On the 48th day I began to work with all my teams, at home, office, clients, students and colleagues with collaboration, as an assistant. On the 96th day I assisted a friend to make paper bags and distribute it in the market. On the 192nd day I joined my young group of trainees to help out a farmer in Aldona to transplant rice in her field in the Khazaans. On the 365th day of Christmas I and my children helped our cat deliver her kittens. And it was the most magical moment and the best gift we could ever receive!
I wasn’t able to buy or give anybody a gift. A gift typically wrapped in shiny paper and impressive enough to win the approval of your near or dear one.
But I in turn received so many gifts all the year round. The gift of patience, forgiveness, compassion, empathy, love and care. Each day of the year was simply beautiful. Every day had a lesson. Each day was a gift. There was more joy in giving than receiving. There was more joy in doing something for someone new, someone ordinary, someone unseen, someone forgotten.
And Christmas is not an event celebrated for a single day or a week or a month. It is Christmas everyday!