How Christmas in India Changed My Christmas Forever
Posted on 21 December 2016
Christmas in India for me means unforgettable happiness!
A moment where there is nothing else to do other than just be!
If you ever have the chance to travel for the holiday's, don’t think - just do! Step outside of your comfort zone and go. You might have an eye-opening experience like I have had when I spent Christmas in India in 2015.
It was the most humbling, un-materialistic experience I’ve endured. I had the chance to surround myself with likeminded people in a country where emotional instability is rare, giving is pure, joy comes from the heart and chaos is an understatement. As it is not a part of the Hindu belief, Christmas in India is not widely celebrated; only acknowledged. Instead, six anointing ceremonies are preformed for the principal deity, Lord Nataraja, in a year. The first and one of the most important is the Marghazhi Thiruvaadhirai. Indicating the first Pooja, in Sanskrit means to honour, a spiritual celebration.
During the month of December until January a part of the festival is taking place in Southern India, in the state of Tamil Nadu. The celebration takes place at Chidamabra Temple where the main deity is brought outside the sanctum sanctorum in a procession that includes massive wooden cars decorated with vibrant colours and intricate flower arrangements. Although I was unable to take part in the festivities I was able to see these beautiful arrangements in production.
Waking up Christmas morning it felt like any other day. The excruciating excitement was gone, diminished into simplicity. There was no need to scurry to the Christmas tree (there wasn’t any) see what ‘Santa’ had gifted his special darlings, or wake the elders out of the politeness - more so selfishness - of your heart. Only to open ‘your’ gifts, later secluding yourself from the family to play with ‘your’ toys as the parents retreat to the comfort of their bed where lucid dreams begin to overcome their bodies once again. It's a vicious and beautiful cycle that we’ve accustomed to never live without; a tradition. A time of gathering, joy, gifting. A tradition so deeply embed into the roots of our history. One change will not suffice - an abomination I tell you!
So, I made the change to remove myself from society’s chains. And it was the most liberating experience I’ve had yet!
The day began with breakfast: an idli plate, a traditional dish that includes 2-4 savoury rice cakes alongside chutney and sambar. Afterwards, we had a quaint gift exchange between our fellow American and Indian students also living in the hostel. The rest of the afternoon was quite relaxed nothing truly on our minds other than "what should we do"? We should do something right, it's Christmas? Well, we did. A few of us hopped on scooters (two per scooter - sometimes even three!) and enjoyed the beautiful day at the beach. The sun glistening on our faces, uncanny smiles once lost in the midst of strenuous studies, but most of all we soaked in the pure beauty of the day.
Once evening set I and the rest of the students that joined me on this incredible trip gathered at the home of our professor’s mother for a small Christmas celebration. Here we drank Glühwein and ate delicious vegan treats. After a long day of pure enjoyment I returned to the hostel to rest my eyes and dream about the wonderful day I have had.
© All photos via Christa Rodriguez