I remember my days as a child growing up in Shillong in the sixties, December used to bring a lot of excitement as we prepared for Christmas. The chilly mornings at school would be spent in planning out Christmas celebrations and the wintry evenings at home would be spent in making cards. Having gone to a Convent, the spirit of Yuletide was even more palpable.
Excitement came in m any forms – of making paper baskets to fill up with candies and chocolates and such goodies. I remember cutting up square pieces of chart paper to be lined up with coloured paper or designing these into small baskets with pretty frilled handles and ribbons. We used to make these for Easter as well. Christmas cards were high on the list of 'to do' excitement. The cards would be made with drawings and colouring of the mandatory Christmas tree – and was it difficult to get the symmetry correct! The tree would be adorned with coloured balls, bells, stars, festoons and what not to pretty it up as much as our colour pencils and space would allow. Then some glitter on it and we were done with our Christmas cards. I cherished one particular adorable card with the jolly face of good old Santa, his white flowing beard shining with glitters that would gleam in the light! I was fascinated.. Some cards would be drawn with the picture of the plump snowman complete with his hat, muffler and stick. Then in some we would draw holly leaves, again a task so difficult to draw symmetrically with our little hands! The leaves (three in number!) would have lush little bright red berries in the centre with stripped candles on it, the flames would have to be shown glowing of course. Some cards again would be drawn with candy sticks and stockings hanging from chimneys and these would be all going to parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins, friends, neighbours and of course our teachers.
The ornamental Christmas tree would be ready at home in all its glory, Christmas cake would be bought in from Mahari, Morello or Gudetti. In school, carols such as 'Silent Night', 'Away in a Manger', 'Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer' and of course 'Jingle bells' among many others would be sung. We would enact the Nativity scene and a doll had to be ready for the crib as baby Jesus. Joseph and Mary were chosen among the more sombre kids, the beard of Joseph had to be properly glued if not drawn with eye brow pencil! And Mary's veil cannot drop! The sheep would have their masks in place as they hobbled around. The three wise men all ready in their robes and gifts in hand to make their entry with 'All the stars in Bethlehem'.
Such was our Christmas as a child. Children today are equally excited about Christmas albeit with a different hue. The essence of it all is somehow missed – Christmas is the time for savouring the joy of giving, of sharing, of thanking the Lord for the gift of Life. This is in tandem with the belief of all faiths—the coming together of humanity. The commonality is the basic love and kindness towards each other and celebrating life in all it's differences transcending all borders to bring the world together as one. This is the spirit of Yuletide, of oneness, a much needed learning perspective in our troubled world of today.
By : ANUREKHA BARKAKOTI