So, another Christmas has come and gone. And this time too, Santa did not come knocking at my door. Maybe it was that the long list of wishes I had sent up to him rather turned him off. Well, never mind, maybe next time. And even though no gifts came my way, I did get some free time. And that has started feeling like quite a precious gift too these days.
But anyway, I always feel that there really is something about Christmas that makes one want to be happy, and make others happy. I suppose that’s what is called the Christmas spirit.
Well, these days I see Christmas being celebrated by even non-Christians in urban India. Even my own nephew and niece have arranged a grand Christmas celebration in their lane, with food, music, dances and as they surely hope, loads of gifts. But when my sisters and I were growing up, we never got the chance to celebrate this Holy day, and Santa never came visiting us either.
However, I do have some sweet and funny memories that I always look back fondly at every time Christmas comes along.
The first of these memories is my elder sister telling me (confidentially, and in a whisper) about Snata Claus. My elder sister was in class fourth at that time. And it was really the first time she and I had heard about Santa Claus. We didn’t have TV at that time, nor any Christian friends.
“Do you know,’ she said, ‘my friend at school told me today that there is a man called Santa Claus who gives gifts to children on Christmas. He comes at night and nobody can see him.’
I must confess, by her tone and words, Santa had sounded rather a terrifying being entering secretly into people’s homes at night. And I really felt a bit suspicious about Santa’s big bag too when my sister told me about it. ‘He gives gifts to only good kids,’ she told me.
‘What does he do with the bad kids?’ I asked, fully expecting to hear that Santa stowed them in his bag and took them away.
But my sister didn’t think so, although she had no other answer to my question either. All that she knew was, ‘He comes to give gifts to the kids who hang their socks by their bed. He puts the gifts in those socks.’
So you can be sure that my sister and I pulled out all our socks from our wardrobe and adorned our bed with them that Christmas. But alas, Santa didn’t come. Mom came in the morning, and we had a thorough scolding about it. But nevertheless, we tried it again the next year. But Santa never came our way. And by next year we had learnt that it will not come to our home because he can only enter through a chimney, and we had no chimney in our home.
My next Christmas memory is of years later, when my younger sister first came to know of Santa Claus. My elder sister and I, of course, knew by then what Santa Claus really meant. But we decided that we did not want our kid sister to suffer the same disappointment that we had suffered. We were still in school, so our buying capabilities were quite limited. Still we managed to gather around twenty or thirty rupees. And with them, bought a new pen with silver stars painted on it, and some chocolates. And then, we fed our younger sister’s ears with delightful description of Santa and his elves and fairies and magic. All in all, we made her feel so excited about Santa, that it was then quite a task making her fall asleep. But finally, our little sister did fall asleep. And then my elder sister and I got up, put her gifts by her pillow, along with some tiny silver bells and other shiny things left out from our craft projects in school. Having done that, we then had the task to put ourselves to sleep. And even that proved to be quite a hard thing to do that night.
Next day, of course, it was our younger sister who got up first. She saw the gifts, and woke us up with her shouts. But then, we expected that. We drew her attention to the silver bells and told her that those bells were the sign that it was really Santa Claus who had left the gift for her. She actually started jumping on her bed shouting, ‘Santa Claus is real! Santa Claus is real!’ She did not mind that the gifts were so small. They had been given by Santa, and that was all that mattered. Santa was real, and he had really come to give her gifts. That made those little things special.
She hugged her pen and chocolates, and didn’t let them go till the afternoon. And that was when my father’s sense of justice demanded that enough was enough. ‘These are not given by Santa Claus. Your sisters bought these gifts for you with their own money. Say thanks to them,’ he advised her.
And there the magic ended for her. Even to this day I wish my father hadn’t let out the secret. It was beautiful to see her eyes glitter with the magic of belief.
That’s why eyes of kids shine so bright, I think. Because they believe. And believing is magic.
How sad it is that as we grow up, doubts gather up to cloud our vision, and dispel the magic forever away. How sad.