As a couple of kids aged five and seven respectively, we (me and my sister) once asked Pa as to why we didn’t celebrate Christmas thanks to the social studies chapter on festivals and because it was probably the night before Christmas. All of a sudden Pa wore his shoes and walked out; leaving us half baffled and genuinely scared. The next thing we knew was that he had rushed to the nearby “fancy” stationery store and got us a little artificial pine tree, decorations and a little idol of Jesus.
We were then told the story of the birth of Christ, this was told to me, sister and my neighbor (who is like my sister too) and of how Santa Claus got us whatever it is that we wished for. We sat for an hour at night and decorated the Christmas tree and then went to sleep. Next day in the morning, under all three of our pillows were gifts from Santa!
The next morning we put our gifts in front of the tree on the center table and put the idol of Jesus Christ next to it along with a miniature version of Santa Claus. Pa had got the Plum cake from a local bakery and put a candle on it and we blew out the candle and sang “happy Birthday Jesus Christ” with all our might! 😛 😀 After the entire song sequence we cut the cake and helped ourselves and also called the other kids in the building and the watchman’s and servant’s kids for the birthday party.
After the birthday party we wished our neighbors – Mr. & Mrs. Alexander, who lived upstairs a merry Christmas and hogged at their home again 😛 and also went to the church that was close to our home for the mass.
From that year onwards, all that we looked forward to were the gifts from Santa and the Christmas decorations; I had a special fascination for silver bells! None of my other friends understood as to why we celebrated Christmas and why Santa Claus got us gifts and none for them.
This went on for about 15 odd years, and then we stopped celebrating Christmas but donate money to the poor and sponsor the education of two kids instead. As we grew up, we knew that Pa was our Santa, and we tried staying up till the wee hours of the morning to catch him red handed, getting all the things on our wish list and hiding the presents under our pillow, but we failed repeatedly, year after year!
Pa even included that Jesus Christ that he got for us that one night when we asked him about Christmas into our little temple along with a few representatives of the 1068 gods that are present in India. From that day onwards, we celebrated all the festivals that we could, irrespective of the fact that it didn’t belong to our religion. It’s one thing to be secular but another to respect each form of God as one’s own.