Changing face of Christmas | Sunday Observer

Changing face of Christmas

December is often a month to remember. It is a time loaded with ‘cool” memories of festive celebrations: and hopefully a time to reflect on the year gone by. Changing trends influence our Christmas rituals and family reunions. I am sure many of us have relatives who have now migrated overseas and the “number” of folks has decreased. Today with stronger global connections and digital marketing platforms the “aura of Christmas” is being subject to rapid change, somehow leaving a void of “human interaction”. Again thankfully in Sri Lanka we still celebrate with those who are near to us, perhaps minus the fat oven roasted turkey.

Perhaps 25 years ago we had a more “family oriented” Christmas, before the advent of social media and other digital transformations. The “likes” that we had then were expressed by friendly handshakes and kisses (ah the ones from the burgher girls were always welcome). By the 15th of December the festive “momentum” steadily increased. One of the primary tasks at my home was the making of the Christmas cake: often referred in that era as rich cake, a reflection of its choice ingredients. My beloved mother had her culinary routine of neatly chopping the various fruits and cashew nuts that entered this complex mixture. I remember being seated next to the kitchen table, waiting in earnest glee to “pinch” away some pieces. When this long mixing ritual was complete the baking process began. The large trays would not fit the oven at home hence they had to be taken to the bakery nearby. I faithfully carried the trays, with mother accompanied by my neighbor Terrence and his beautiful sister Jackie. The bakery was very “happening”. The old baker looking quite exhausted by the ‘extra” baking manages to smile and take the trays. We would have to return around 10.30 pm to collect same. The return journeys were funny as Terrence had a habit of lighting fire crackers along the way and waking stray dogs from their realm of blissful slumber!

My father was a dedicated soul who had his “December” routines. One of his primary tasks was applying varnish on our wooden furniture to enhance their outward glossy look. He would patiently commit himself to this task. One particular year a cat boldly entered the garden and trod on the varnish tin spilling its contents. That feline was in for a surprise as I grabbed the bottle of thinner and threw some at him. The frenzied cat bolted, and mother gently warned me. This was the kind of fun we enjoyed back then.

Cooking was a vital element at Christmas. Unlike today many did not fancy buying stuff. Of course some things were purchased like the brudher: which required expert baking by some gifted burgher ladies. But mama and her sisters were good at making coconut rock and milk toffee. The “imported” cheese was sent via Canada by Uncle Elmo. Today there are many places to buy “yuletide delights” but somehow this practice has stealthily stolen that element of family reunion and chatter which we relished on the 22 and 23 of December. My dad’s final yuletide duty was to buy the fresh pine ‘Cyprus” tree, which was a challenge. After buying the tree getting it home by taxi was entertaining as the driver sneezed consistently, perhaps that worthy had an allergy! Decorating the tree was further enhanced with the jokes from dad’s unmarried elder brother Uncle Stephen. He used to say I would end up as a writer one day: I think I am at that destination now.

25th December was a “24 hour rave”. The day began at around 5 am with Terrence letting out a volley of thunderous fire crackers, much to the dismay of another retired neighbor Nadesan. This worthy was not fond of such disturbance. Uncle Norman played renditions of Jim Reeves and Pat Boone on the radio. Enroute to church I encounter Uncle Alloy and Uncle Gyles heading for “mass’ clad in their neatly ironed shirts. Both these souls are now on the “other side’! Uncle Douglas his belly bulging, was always dressed in “full” white, seeking the beautiful girls on whom he bestowed his “heartiest kisses”. Lunch was a fascinating affair with aunts, uncles and cousins. I miss my jolly cousin sisters presently domiciled in Australia, the “youngest’ of these, is now armed with a PhD. It feels strange to wish them now on “Skype”.

The pork curry and fried lingus (sausages that would enhance your cholesterol levels) were the treats from Uncle Justin, who now resides in cold Canada. Thus the festive “cheer” was sustained until maybe the 3rd of January. Uncle Godfrey who was dear to me now “connects” via email from Sydney. Today greeting cards are out and e-cards are in. Traditional carols are replaced with “mixed” bouts of rapping. But Christmas is not about eating and receiving gifts. Today it is being replaced by “strategic marketing” as X-Mas, which isn’t right. Christ is the centre of Christmas. Throughout my “journey” in life I have found that the real Christ within Christmas remains a close friend in every circumstance and challenge that life throws at you. It is this gift that fills the spiritual void. May you all experience a blessed Christmas and walk into 2018 with radiant hope. (DJ)