Monday, December 25, 2006

Holly, Berries And Yule Logs For You

One of the nicest things about growing up in Calcutta was, I think, the fact that there was almost no festival that didn't belong to one, that one couldn't celebrate. Pujo, Christmas, Easter, Diwali... all were celebrated with equal enthusiasm - either as occasions to enjoy the warmth of family and friends, or as opportunities to overdose on the city's carnival atmosphere: Ferris wheels in corner parks, fish fry and biriyani at food stalls lining the streets, midnight mass at St. Paul's cathedral, huge warm bricks of fruitcake, walking down Lansdowne Road at 3:00 a.m. on New Year's Eve, being passed by cars full of extremely happy people serenading one with new year wishes (or, in some cases, when they had imbibed a little too much alcohol and gotten confused about the date, yuletide greetings). Calcutta took every festival and inhabited it. Every religious festival was an opportunity for everyone interested to get involved and enjoy themselves.

Which is why I find it strange that in the US, it is politically incorrect to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Apparently, some people might be offended by a misplaced greeting, be it ever so warm and well-meant. When you greet someone here, you can, at best, wish them a happy new year, and if you really want to be correct, your greetings stockpile is limited to a bland "Season's Greetings".

But to hell with political correctness. To all, a Merry Christmas. May you enjoy the season with brownies and samosas (as I did every year, after the school nativity play). May you catch the Christmas special on TV, with that little boy with the awesome voice singing "O Holy Night", and may you sing along loudly and tunelessly. May you have fruitcake after inedible fruitcake delivered to your home. May you revive yourself with friends and laughter, wine and feasting, and not be sick afterwards. And may you be big enough to celebrate festivals even when you don't observe them.

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