Written by Ritika Mishra
Just like many other festivals in India and around the world, Christmas, too, is celebrated with a lot of fervour and excitement. Think Christmas trees, decorations, carols, prayers, and a lot of merriment. This year, too, people around the country — with hope as well as caution — have started decorating their homes to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. But even amid the festive cheer, Christmas this year looks different.
Offering sincere prayers that accompany merrymaking, Grichi Boro, a student of homeopathy and a resident of Assam, says that though the pandemic has shattered lives and dreams, it hasn’t crushed spirits. “We are celebrating Christmas with the same spiritual joy as before. The presence of family and friends adds a special touch to the celebrations. But this time, there will not be many gatherings. We are trying to keep our spirits high by constantly meeting each other virtually, praying for each other, and for the churches that will be celebrating Christmas. We have decorated our house and have been baking cakes, but above all, we are praying to the Lord to help the lost and oppressed, give hope to the hopeless, and love to those who need it, which I believe, is the true meaning of Christmas,” says the 24-year-old, adding that people have been asked to fill Google forms to attend church masses in Guwahati, to avoid crowding.
Chiquitta, a 31-year-old cluster manager and resident of Pune, says: “This is my first Christmas after marriage, and typically that would mean our families coming together for a feast. This time, however, we would probably have to invite our families separately, since both sides have elderly people. One of the fun things about Christmas is the dance or the winter ball. Pre-covid had Christmas dances happening all over the city. It was an anticipated treat that we’re definitely missing this year. Christmas dances were the best way to end an incredibly fun-filled day. But Christmas still feels like Christmas with the house decorated.”
Christmas is celebrated to commemorate the birth of the spiritual leader whose teachings formed the basis of Christianity: Jesus of Nazareth. The celebrations typically involve exchanging gifts, attending masses, decorating the house and the Christmas tree, and sharing meals with friends, family, and those less privileged.
But for PB Lalrinchhana, 30, an HR manager who belongs to Mizoram and is currently residing in Pune, this year’s Christmas would be a “silent night”. “This year, Christmas is definitely different, because it usually involved my entire family coming together. It used to be the only time of the year when we would get to see each other. But this year, we have decided to celebrate in our respective cities. Even if I didn’t go home on Christmas, I would spend it with friends and people of my community; but this year, because of different regulations at different places, that, too, is unlikely. Also, I had tested COVID-positive. My body is still recovering and I am weak. So, as a precautionary measure, I have decided not to venture out or visit others. This year, I will celebrate on my own.”
Alvina Dhar, 25, from Assam’s Haflong tells: “Age-wise service will be held in the church, during which, only two persons will be allowed on one bench. The mass timings have been divided between age groups. No feast is being organised at our place this year, but there will be small gatherings in the house. But, decorations this year are surprisingly better than last year’s.”
“The ritual of kissing baby Jesus’s feet after the mass won’t be happening this year. There will be live streaming of celebrations of the main cathedral. Carol singing isn’t happening, but residents in my society have planned a get-together. Exchanging of gifts will surely happen — the pandemic cannot cancel that!” shares Sneha Dominic, a 23-year-old advertising and marketing student of St. Xavier’s, Mumbai, whose home is in Delhi.
“There is no Christmas-y vibe anywhere. It used to be so much fun with week-long programmes, singing practices, baking cakes and inviting friends over, church decorations, making cribs, and so much more. The mass timings left me flabbergasted, when I realised there will be no midnight masses, and that it will begin 4.30 pm as they have to wind it up by 6 pm, per the Bishop’s orders,” Navya Mathew, 23, a student from Korea, currently in Bihar, expresses.
“One thing that hasn’t been compromised with is the food being prepared at home. The delicacies are going to be the same: palappam, mutton stew and plum cake baked by mom. Changes are inevitable, and we all are trying to get accustomed to it,” she adds, after some thought. “I do acknowledge the fact that I got to deduce the real meaning behind the festival because of the pandemic: simplicity. There will be no gatherings and all the money that we used to spend for parties will be saved for the needy. Doing good is what this year’s objective for Christmas is.”
(The writer is an intern with indianexpress.com)