If (like me) your favorite month in the year is December, then you will understand the rush of happiness that suddenly descends when the month begins. You'll feel the chill in the air, hear Christmas carols being played and everything gloomy will be somehow be replaced with joy. It definitely 'tis the season to be jolly', a time for love, family, giving, celebrating and for me, it's also a time to relive some wonderful childhood memories of Christmas.
Growing up in the small town of Podanur at a time when social media was non-existent, my favorite day (apart from Christmas day) was December 23. The children's Christmas Tree organised by the Anglo-Indian Association was the highlight of the day. My father would take me to the Railway Institute for the games that began at 4 p.m, followed by high tea, and the much awaited arrival of Santa. I remember all the kids waiting for Uncle Cedric Fernandez to announce that Santa had arrived and boy he did! On a scooter! Not quite like the nice looking Santa's I'd seen on Christmas cards. My most special memory however was coming home that evening to the smell of cake baking in the oven and Christmas carols that my dad played late into the night. My mom baked the most amazing cakes while my brother and I would fall asleep to the sound of Nana Mouskouri's angelic voice singing "Old Toy Trains", the smell of cake wafting through the house, watching shadows of the twinkling Christmas tree that stood decorated in the hall.
Years later, I got my first job and was furious when my leave application for two weeks in December was denied. I called my dad (in tears) and told him and my mom that I would quit if I could not be home for Christmas. The thought of not being able to listen to those carols while I fall asleep, eat a tasty piece of plum-cake at some odd, late hour in the night or smell the freshly painted rooms in the house made me miserable (yes, we Anglo-Indians love to paint our home before X'mas). That's when my dad shared his Christmas memory and gave new meaning to mine. He told me how he dreaded the festive season because it brought sad memories of the last Christmas spent with his mother (who passed on two weeks later and left him and his siblings orphaned). He was eight years old and here at 20 I was howling because I could not spend one Christmas with my family. Dad camouflaged his sorrow well and never let his sadness hinder our excitement. There may not have been a lot of Christmas presents under the tree but there was love, happiness, sharing, and special memories to last forever.
As we get ready to celebrate Christmas in a few days, I have started to think about the many ways I want to make it special for my son. We haven't put up a tree (yet), presents might not be too many either and I haven't inherited my mother's wonderful baking skills but if there's one thing I want him to feel and remember for the rest of his life, it's the same spirit of happiness and joy that my parents gave us. And yes, beautiful carols that will hopefully lull him to sleep with a smile on his face. Merry Christmas to you and yours!