The elusive Xmas Factor1:13 PM
It's not the same.
The very sentence on ever expatriates' lips when the topic of Christmas come on the table. It is not the same, and this is an irrefutable truth.
The problem, is that finding the exact thing that makes it "not the same" is a ghost, a shadow, an endlessly chased but not reached rainbow. Nobody has been able to pinpoint what it is that makes Christmas so different in India.
The Climate might seem like the obvious elephant in the room in this odd game of "spot the difference". But, it isn't so. I have friends who come from tropical areas, or even the Southern emisphere. Places were Christmas hardly means dark, gloomy, cold and possibly snowy time. Yet even for those who grew up in an equally warm climate and evergreen surrounding, it is not the same.
I have been in India for a little over a decade now, and I am just really starting to grasp it.
What is not the same, is the very core of it, it's vital essence and spirit. But what makes that so hard to pinpoint is that said core and spirit is as unique as one's DNA. Just like there are no two snowflakes that are alike, there are no two Christmasses that are the same. Each person has their own, and their own meaning for it. Christmas is a live spirit one that probably live in each celebrating soul.
Christmas is like this old friend you get to see once a year, it is familiar, warm, comforting, and honest. For some, it cannot be without eggnog, for others it is incomplete without a chill in the air or a an 8 feet tall real tree. Some swear by twinkle lights, other prefer candles. it frequently means sharing, and being in a crowd of sorts. Yet some feel more comfortable in solitude.
In truth it doesn't really matter what it is, as long as it makes sense to one, and one alone. My Christmas means Swiss cookies, casual gathering of people and simple yet hearty continental food, and red green and gold decorations. To each their own.
When you are an expat, Christmas, that old friend, suddenly reminds you that your entire world has changed in a very drastic way and over a really short period of time. Christmas cease to be that comforting, rarely ever changing buddy. It instead hand you the mirror that let you see how much you and your life has changed, just like that. As I said, Christmas is an honest spirit, and brutally so at time.
This is what makes the holiday so hard on my lot, this is what takes time to cope. I found out that of all the festivals,many traditions I grew up with, Christmas is the one that forced me to introspect the most. Asking me to ask myself very difficult questions :
Who are you? What's your baggage? What do you want to keep? Throw? What are your priorities? What do you want to become? What's your future like?
These are frightening questions. Questions that most will try to avoid being confronted with. They are very personal, and intimidating questions. Questions that do not have a right or wrong answer, or a quick one for that matter. They are the kind of questions you could ponder over a lifetime, or more.
Having to answer them, or rather attempt to do so, force one to constantly reassess their lives, reinvent things, and create new normals. When you move accross the globe, you change, often not really realising it.
And change is scary.
Over the years, I went from dreading Christmas, hating it for being different and not "right", to finally learn to make peace with it.
One simply cannot stay mad at an old friend for simply mirroring their own shortcomings. That, after all, would not be fair at all.
I did introspect, reflected, and reinvented things. I picked up elements of my culture I could not do without, incorporated new ones I was willing to adopt and created a new version of Christmas I can call my own again. I came to be very grateful for that lesson the holiday gave me over the years.
And, sure, it isn't the same anymore. But enough time has passed that I am not even sure I really truly remember what it once was.
You see, old memories tend to fade away when new more vivid ones take their place.
So, yes, it is NOT the same. But I no longer see it as something bad. It just take time to get to that point to get to appreciate it; and a few coping strategies I will perhaps share one of these days.