By Elaine D’Souza
Mumbai: Christmas for me is not just a feeling but an emotion. “How many of us on our birthday would appreciate a generic greeting card meant for just anybody?” Don’t we all like personalised greetings?
The season of Advent leading to Christmas allows us to personalise our greetings to Christ as we await his coming with much happiness and hope. The Advent hymns are such a joy to sing as they fill you with positive expectation as we wait patiently.
As a child, my parents instilled in me that Christmas was only about the Birth of Christ and a time for families to come back together with no matter which part of the world they are and share a meal.
As I was growing up all around me, I saw Christmas was less about Christ and more about partying, Christmas dances, Santa Claus, gifts, decor, outfits and sweets. While I like those elements in moderation, Christ was nowhere to be found. It seemed rather too commercial with a secular fabric attached to it.
I have fond memories of come December and the excitement in my home to bring hay and red mud to make the Christmas crib. Some traditions related to Christmas will always hold a special place in my heart and I hope to pass them on to my future generations.
I remember this one occasion where I wished someone ‘Happy Christmas’ and the person turned around and said to me ‘Elaine, I sure do have an exchange of gifts and decorate my home with lights as a part of the holiday season but we don’t celebrate Christmas’. I remember having that confused look on my face as I said but you are celebrating aren’t you.
I chatted with a dear friend about the dilemma and I remembered his words ‘What matters is people come together during this beautiful season of Christmas. It’s a time of bonding and spreading love and good cheer. Whether people acknowledge the presence of Christ or not they are indirectly celebrating it.’ That was a lot of good food for thought for me too in what he said.
As I grow older, each year my love to hold on to traditions grows stronger. So how, exactly, did I put Christ back in Christmas, especially if you are already knee-deep in decorations and cake baking among other things?
1) I love the advent calendar which has little actionable things one can follow such take a walk with nature, give your mother a warm hug and thank her for one thing, inculcate an attitude of gratitude etc.
2) Teaching the children’s choir and song leaders Advent hymns that highlight the coming of Christ.
3) Participate in mass online to see the advent candle being lit over four Sundays and go for confession as a part of our preparation.
4) Eco-friendly crib with the nativity scene in our homes.
5) Sending via post-traditional Christmas cards with personalised handwritten notes.
6) Identifying needy people we can reach out to with alms, food and surprise gifts to make their Christmas a memorable one.
7) Attend/participate in the Christmas Eve / Christmas Day mass online/other ways.
8) Family time over a meal/s and exchange of gifts. Cut a birthday cake for Jesus and sing happy birthday to him.
In conclusion, Christ’s birth tells us that greatness is not measured by status nor riches, but by divine purpose. It doesn’t matter how lowly our lives begin, they can have an extraordinary miraculous ending.
Wishing you a blessed Christmas season and may Jesus be your reason this season.
(Elaine D’Souza is a parishioner of Mt. Carmel Church, Bandra, Mumbai)