Saturday, December 27, 2008

The X in Christmas

'Tis the season to be jolly.

Well, jolly was far from the emotion I was feeling. The media tried hard with its glitzy pleas to spend, but glitzy somehow did not equate to jolly. It was as if the entire world was begging the common man to do something for the US economy. Period. But wait, this was supposed to be Christmas time.

Or was it?

My own memories of Christmas go far back, way back to my elementary school. I used to attend a Catholic school and the priests who ran the school were clear about religion. Christian students had to attend the Christian religion class while the others went to the moral sciences class. I still remember vividly trying to figure out what 'conscience' actually means, as a first grader. It totally beat me then. It beats me still. But I have grown up with a healthy respect and awe of all religions in the world, and remain a Hindu. Inevitably, every year I was called to play the part of Mary in the nativity scene enacted for Christmas. I used to look enviously at the students who played angels because they had these beautiful wings and could flit about while I had to sit around with the baby wearing blue and white.
Later, with one of my closest friends being a Christian, and I, being a curious theist, joined her in her search for the right Church. I was not a believer but I wanted to know. Sheba taught me hymns and songs and introduced me to some real wonderful people. She also introduced me to the Christ in her and the belief that made the religion as strong as it is today. For Christmas, plum cake and carols were an indelible memory.
There were no talks of Christmas gifts, no advertisements on TV luring people to buy! buy! buy! In secular India, Christmas is a time when the birth of Christ is celebrated and it does not matter if you were a Christian or not, everyone was entitled to ten days of holidays. You did not call it a season for the family nor did you emphasize the gifts. I am told it was this way, some time back in this part of the world as well.
Today, I watch the television with total disappointment and disdain. Fox news broadcasts the route of Santa, a gleeful drama with the sounds of sleigh bells and hooves to boot. Anchors talk of how to save money this season and how to shop wisely. If that's not all, propriety pundits appear on the idiot box with advance tips on how and when to return gifts. In this, the land of the quintessential capitalist,

Christmas has been relegated to a season.


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