Christmas has been called many things by many people. It has been called the giving season, the rejoicing season and the festive season. Saint Paul called it the season for hospitality, and many of our non-Christian friends might think of it simply as a season for feasting and enjoyment. All these descriptions and definitions are of course, quite correct in their own way, but to me Christmas is above all things a season of remembrance.
Remembrance of things past and traditions made mellow over the years. Christmas more than most seasons, quickens memories. It is the season during which we pledge anew our faith and hope in the family as an unshakeable unit. It is the season for gathering together, and in the very gathering there is a renewal and strength. There is remembering and rejoining. There is laughter and love. There is joy and peace.
Christmas is essentially a family affair, and I am sure many of you feel the way I do. All over the world throughout the year, people are content to do as circumstances and their jobs dictate. This might mean that the normally reserved and cautious western countrymen might find themselves plunged into the thick of life in a teeny Western city, full of colour, noise and strange exotic customs, while the gregarious, fun-loving people might find that fate has set him down in a cold, bleak country, where the people seem to be as unfriendly as the landscape around them. They are however, quite content to make the best of things for the better part of the year, all because they are buoyed up by the knowledge that they will be home for Christmas.
One of my most cherished memories is that of assembling with the rest of the family and the devotees in the church for prayers in the midnight. As the somewhat sleepy and hoarse strains of that stirring Christmas hymn “Christmas awake! floated out over the still dark morning, I could feel every nerve fighting inside me. To us children, the long-awaited day had come at last! What precious thoughts they evoke - these cherished memories of Christmas time. The family circle has been broken since then, but as long as life lasts we will remember them, those “little jewellery parentheses of family life.”
Christmas is a needy compound of so many intangible, evanescent, volatile things, the warm encompassing love of family and friends, the prodigal, lavish hospitality that prevails, it is in the wide - eyed wonder of a child gazing at the Christmas tree, in the tantalising odour of Christmas cake, new baked, and in the appetising smell of succulent ham, deliciously pink and clove - studed.
Christmas is the tart, bitter fragrance of the tree itself, the very symbol of Christmas with its friendly, spreading, laden branches in the stealthy rustle of wrapping paper, in the din of crackers and the pealing of church - bells. In the frosty twinkle of a myriad stars and the soft gleam of love in an old person’s eye.
It is a vast punchbowl of indefinable, gay, elusive, glowing things, the spirit of Christmas, but the most important ingredient, which holds it all together, is love. The love of husband for wife or parents for children, brother for sister, friend for friend. Love and remembrance go hand - in - hand at Christmas time, but this love is somehow quite different from the love we may feel at other times of the year. This love is not ashamed to be seen, and shines out proudly in everything we do at this season and nobody thinks it sloppy, sentimental or unmanly to indulge in some of the impulsive things we are all prone to indulge in at Christmas time.
Christmas to me, is also the season during which my faith seems more real and vital than at any other time of the year. The message is still the same old one of peace on earth and goodwill towards men, but to me it comes thrillingly alive with each successive Christmas. If ever I need reassurance the comforting strains of old familiar Christmas carols, and the simple story of the birth of the Babe of Bethlehem, works wonders for me.
Innocent children of the street, having their equivalent of a square meal. We have all kinds of societies and institutions for the prevention of this that and everything - why not, start something like free instant food hampers to distribute during the festive season perhaps where these waifs can get a square meal for a few rupees. In a land where most of us eat four square meals a day and spend money for unnecessary things, we could do without some little luxury to contribute to this vital effort.
Based as it is on the family concept, the message of Christmas is easily understood and rapturously absorbed by even the youngest child and that makes it so much easier for us parents to hand down the real meaning of Christmas to our children.
I would be more than satisfied that I have done my duty if I could teach my family and friends that the real meaning of Christmas is something that must remain with us throughout the year, and is not just something that we take out and put away with all the bright baubles, the tinsel, the ribbons, the bon-bons and the star - dust which are the gay and gaudy outer trappings of Christmas.
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