Soon it will be Christmas Eve
India has a small Christian population, just 2%, so I really don’t think it is a big event across the country. Thought I know that the news channels wish the Christians a Merry Christmas and so will the President and Prime Minister. A tiny clip of the pope saying the mass at the Vatican is show on the news, and Channel V and MTV will display little Christmasy icons.
But for Goa it’s different. It has a 20-29 % Christian population, huge colossal whitewashed churches along river fronts and looming from green hillocks and the tourism industry looses no opportunity to project the Christian population large. It’s been a while since I got all emotional and excited about Christmas. I’m spent the better part of the last three years away from home and Goa. But this year, as I attempt to integrate myself in Bangalore, things have been a little different. The Ascension Church I go to has made elaborate plans for Christmas and I’m looking forward to the flea market coming up this Sunday (7th December 08), and the next weekend, which is to have a carol singing contest. I remember the last flea market we had at Church, where me and my friend, pigged ourselves on Sanna (indigenous bread made of rice, coconut and coconut toddy) and Sorpotel (pork stew), homemade cakes, chicken samosas and other stuff. I bought enough of the sweets to last me into the following week and I’m looking forward to stocking up again. Nothing like delicious home food, cooked with tremendous love by some busy aunty and her family.
It’s already the 5th of December and Christmas Carols must be already playing on the radio back home. We would have fished out the Christmas Carol tapes and CDs stored away some placed and begun playing them too. This year my little niece, all of six months and a shade mischievous already, will be introduced to her first Christmas. I’m sure her mum who loves shopping must be already planning on her dress.
They must be planning our Christmas sweets and when they would need to be made, my mum planning her budget, my sisters planning on their dresses. Leandra, my youngest sister who is a tailor must be inundated with orders. And like some other festive times of the year, during Christmas too, all she can think about is fabrics, and threads, buttons and phone calls from worried clients eager for their Christmas gowns.
Besides being a hectic time on the domestic front, this is an especially busy time for mum at work. She teaches in the pre-primary on Lourdes Convent and late December is when they have their ‘Parents Day’ which means that all the kids put up some event either in the form on concerts and songs or a drill, for their parents. And preparation for this begins months in advance. Training kids, deciding on their costumes, getting the costumers ready, and hundreds of tiny logistics, can be a huge task especially when the kids in question are anywhere from 3 to 5 year old tots.
Soon they will be pulling out the cardboard box of all the statues for the crib, and the bunting. When we were kids, decorating the crib and the Christmas tree was an elaborate ritual. From going searching for a fir tree that we could hack at, to setting up the crib on a thin layer of sand on a table. Above the crib, on a string tied from wall to wall, would be the Christmas cards that would have come. The huge star frame of bamboo, lying on the loft, with its faded blue and white dressing and the gold trimming, would be stripped bear and redressed for the season. A bulb fixed into it and we would stand by for a few minutes admiring our handiwork and its soft glow.
People in Goa take designing their crib especially seriously. Besides the huge Christmas relief’s in all churches, of miniatures hills and caves and sheep and the three wise men making their way from the far end, all set into a blue translucent sky with big silver stars, people in their homes also design Christmas relief’s. Most of the times they are planned so big that they may be done in the veranda or garden, with grass growing on the miniature hills and little streams where the water flows and the clay statues of baby Jesus with his arms open, makes for interesting viewing.
When its Christmas, I can’t forget Mapuca, that’s the city nearest to us. Its where my mother goes shopping each Saturday, its where I studies for five years, up until graduation. Its where I worked, until I left Goa. Come a festival and Mapuca lights up, the already small market get packed with the increased number of vendors and shoppers, and people like me who will return home from Mumbai and Pune and the Gulf to spend time with their family.
There are stars that you can buy and that each Catholic home will put up. Statues for the crib, all types of buntings and a few fireworks, tons of fruits and readymade clothes, people will be flocking to the butchers and the frozen food shops, piles of vegetables waiting to be bought. Super markets overflowing, traffic everywhere, angry honks and people buying wines. When I think of Christmas in Mapuca, its one huge blur of glittering colours, sounds, textures, all wrapped up in an excitement that permeates the air.
For those along the coast of Goa, Christmas and New Year is the time when the money is made, the money that will help sustain the family for the entire of the coming year. Its when everything else stops, eating, sleeping, children, even personal time for Christmas and the business begins, brisk and crisp, the sense of competition is heightened and every little restaurant is trying to outdo the other to woo the customer, be it Indian or foreign. Sadly, this year will be hard for these small restaurants and hotels. The US and Europe has been hit hard by the recession. The ripple effects are still finding their way to India and the situation is not too pleasant here either, the terrorist attacks in Mumbai on 26th November have led foreign Governments to issue warning against traveling, and even though Goa continues to put up a brave front, it has virtually dealt the death knell to this tourism season. Well it may mean less money in the economy, but on the brighter side it might mean more of a ‘family Christmas’ for Goa.