Family traditions usually evolve from childhood memories. So in our family we celebrate Indian holidays the way I used to when I was growing up in south India. Christmas, however, was not one of them. My only recollection of Christmas was observing how our Catholic neighbors celebrated the holiday. We would see the entire family, dressed in new Christmas clothes, going to church. Later, one or two of the children would come by our house with a tray laden with Christmas cookies and cakes.
On cold December nights, the local church group would come by singing joyous Christmas carols. My sister and I would wait up, eager and excited, for the group to stop at our front doorstep. The songs were sung in the local language but with the same Christmas tune. We were familiar with all the carols and would sing along in English! It was a weirdly exhilarating experience.
So we depend on my husband to bring his childhood memories to our Christmas festivities. On our first Christmas together we had no ornaments and so my sisters-in-law made us a whole box of them. After nearly 30 years, those handmade ornaments are precious heirlooms. Selecting the tree, trimming and later decorating are now part of my own tradition.
When the boys were young, they spent Christmas Eve on the mountain slopes, snowboarding. I spent the day making an elaborate Indian meal for them and wrapping up all the presents. Christmas Eve in our home was the scent of whole wheat bread frying in hot oil and the gingery bite of Masala Potatoes mingling with the evergreen scent of the Christmas tree.
For the past few years the snowboarding tradition was shelved because of the lack of snow. Snowboarding will be later in the year when the slopes aren’t as crowded. This year I want to read Oscar Wilde’s The Selfish Giant to my boys before a roaring fire and enjoy a day of good food and companionship.
Like a slow sunrise, I can see the beginning of change on my life’s horizon. There will come a time when my sons will want to carve out their own way of celebrating, just like my husband and I did nearly 30 years ago. Traditions are important and should enrich our lives, not confine us.
May you find a tradition that is rich and fulfilling! That is my holiday wish for you, my dear readers. See you all in 2016.