In the first of a series of articles about the meaning of Christmas to different people, Kirtey Verma reflects on how her own Anglo-Indian family adore the time honoured Yuletide traditions
Growing up in such a close family, it’s hard to believe that Christmas could be anything other than a family celebration. With an Indian dad and an English mum, the entire year is such a fusion of festivals that December 25th becomes the only day that we all come together. We sit around a table that groans under the amount of food that our mum has prepared to perfection. (Even if the roast potatoes are slightly burnt, it’s still pretty perfect.)
I’m fairly certain that my mum is secretly Santa Claus. When I was little, she ate the mince pies I left by the fireplace. She wrapped all the presents and signed them from Santa. Singlehandedly, although I’m convinced elves are involved, she transforms our home into a magical workshop that Saint Nick would be proud to see.
There’s a roaring fire, fairy lights and homemade wreaths scattered everywhere. An earthy, natural aroma pervades the house, intensified by mistletoe, the fir tree and vanilla candles. There are countless glasses of red wine and mugs of Baileys hot chocolate.
Christmas to me is about tradition. Every year, running down the stairs at 7am (although this gets later year by year), waiting for the parents to wake up and grace us with their presence at the elaborate breakfast buffet my eldest sister always prepares. Once, we opened all our presents before our mum had even put her slippers on.
However, somehow, Christmas takes on a new meaning every year. Aged seven, Christmas was about pretending to be Clara from the Nutcracker while dancing to Stevie Wonder. Aged ten, it was about picking out a wish list from the Argos catalogue. That was the year I really wanted a dance mat and ended up with Cluedo. Go figure.
I find that as you get older, the magic tends to diminish. People will tell you that Christmas is a commercial concept, and it becomes easier to believe it. It becomes more and more about the best advert; it is a competition to see which one can make you cry, which one can make you laugh, and who can do it first.
It becomes about shops pressuring customers into buying things they do not need, at a time of year when life can be pretty terrible for people struggling to pay bills.
It is important to remember to give a little of our time and help to community projects like the Samaritan’s Operation Christmas Child. As a child, I used to love filling up shoeboxes and imagining how the child receiving it would react. Christmas is only as magical as we make it.
This year, after one of my sisters got married, I wondered how we will spend Christmas when we all have families of our own. Yet, as much as Christmas is about tradition, it is also about change. Our traditions will inevitably evolve and it is comforting to know that when I asked my sisters what Christmas meant for them, they immediately said one thing: family.