I fell in love with Xmas decades ago. The last week of December brings me hope and joy like no other. I wonder if the humble beginnings of this unexplained happiness lay in my alma mater. I spent the most impressionable 12 years of my life in St.John’s High School, reciting ‘Our Father in heaven….’ and singing hymns every single day. Christmas celebration meant dressing up the school and yourself. And life felt joyous if you happened to stand huddled on stage with a group, singing Christmas carols with peppy music filling the air.
One memory is etched in my mind with a scar though. One particular year in Primary School a Father from some church arrived. It was Christmas celebration and all Catholics were asked to line up in order to take the Holy Wafer. My curiosity got the better of me that morning and I joined the queue. I was dying to know if it was any different from potato chips. I was upset it was meant for Catholics alone. But right before my turn, this nosey guy from class yelled, “You are a Hindu. Come back”. His voice garnered support and the Holy Wafer has been a mystery since.
Throughout my childhood, I bought the idea of Santa owning a toy factory and giving out presents. To my greatest disappointment, I never ever received one. And my Mom added to my misery by telling me they were reserved only for the good kids. So I grew up mostly thinking I wasn’t good enough. It is only now that I realize, Santa’s reindeers may have run out of carrots to fly all the way to India. His elves in the North Pole may have had no idea of the sheer number of kids we produce in this part of the world. Outsourcing production of toys to China wasn’t even an option those days. And most importantly, Google Maps wasn’t around. How in the world was Santa supposed to figure my ever changing address without rerouting? I must confess, I am very kind and understanding. Hence, I have forgiven you Santa. And my love for Christmas has increased manifold over the years waiting for a present.
Add to it Hollywood movies that make Christmas alluring. Every romantic comedy reaches its climax on the streets of New York on the eve of Christmas or New Year. Snow falling in the background, people skating in Central Park and streets strewn with lit up trees. And that final confession of true love! Ah, the magic of Christmas!
Back to the present, the annual light up is back on Orchard Road and in the malls. It is some sight to behold. Especially, if you are seated in the upper deck of the touristy Hippo Bus, camera hooked on to the selfie stick in one hand, while you devour the city with your eyes, Singapore looks like a gorgeous bride. If only I could add some snowfall to this landscape. Makes me wonder if it was Singapore where the 3 kings followed the star?
It is here, that my kids have been growing up with a Christmas tree that we put up every year. Santa has always managed to find our home, thanks to straight forward addresses in Singapore.
As I gaze wistfully at these memoirs that painted my wonder years, I realize Christmas has always held a special place in my life. As I look forward to visiting India this December, my mind flies back to my favorite church in Mumbai – Mount Mary, Bandra. The mellow chimes of the Church Bell fading in traffic noise, the dancing wicks of thousands of candles lit with prayers to fulfill delirious desires and the vast Indian Ocean in the backdrop. Serene. Magical. So here is wishing all of you a Merry Christmas. And you better not shout, you better not cry, cos Santa Claus is coming to town.
P.S. My mum has changed too. She now puts up a Christmas tree for all her grandchildren. And it seems Santa never misses hers. It is lined with presents. I have a new curiosity though. I am confused where Santa picked his Ho Ho Ho from… A Maharastrian influence, was it?