From the age of 4, in 1938, until 1956, for eighteen years I lived in the same house with my parents and siblings. We were nine, five boys and four girls and not enough to make a full foot ball team but enough to have been blessed with the joys of an interesting family life.
Among my best memories are those of Christmas and N.Years and later, the madness of carnival. My father ran a big department store and months before Christmas he delighted in looking over catalogs to choose the toys that would be bought for the toy department. He became like a kid, I remember him sitting at the table in the dining room at nights looking over the electric trains with a twinkle in his eyes. When the train arrived he took pains in setting it up in the show window and he invited us to come down and see it. Of course it was too expensive for our family, even if he was the manager and there were no credit cards in those days and so it was understood and I never felt deprived. I loved the toys I got but I aways wanted to know what was the secret behind the spring that made the toy car run and so after a while I took some screws and stuff out and the spring busted and now I thought, “I’ll just tie it with string and take it where I want it to go instead of winding it up and have it bounce onto the walls and furniture.”
At Christmas, new curtains came out and all the floors were washed and the living and dining room floors were polished and they shone beautifully. All the brass flower-pots and silver shone so clean and bright. In the early years we had a Pine tree growing in a large pot out doors that we used to bring in and decorate but eventually it died and from then on my father’s store imported real Christmas trees from Canada. They were placed in a cold storage until a few days before Christmas my dad brought home home and set it up . I loved the smell of the pine which filled our living room. I loved to sneak in when no one was around and just gaze at the new curtains and the shining floors, the beautiful anthurium lilies that stood in a big crystal vase on the center table, the maiden-hair ferns in the brass pots, the tree sparkling with tinsel and lights and the little decorations. It was a magical time of the year.
We did not have a chimney, being in a tropical country but we were told that Santa became very tiny and passed through the hole for the key or in some cases he opened a window and came in.
Of course we kinda believed up to a certain age but my dad after awaking us on Christmas night, would show me the glass with a drop of milk in the bottom, some cookie crumbs in a saucer and he would say…..”Santa had his snack. See he sat in this chair” and I stared at it and touched the glass as if it brought me closer to the mystery of this man.
See now I look at all this and am grateful because Christmas is all about mystery, things we cant explain scientifically but we just accept. Things we call “miracles” and magic and all those things that help to make life sparkle. Life can be so boring without magical moments. What makes us fall in love? Why do we love to look at a baby.? Sometimes am travelling in the subway and a woman comes on with a baby in her arms and I find I cant stop staring. There is mystery in all this. One day we are so small and helpless and then we grow and become so independent.
Because I could accept and love the mystery of a jolly man in red, bringing gifts for rich and poor alike, then maybe it was not too difficult in growing to believe there were angels singing and Mary gives birth in a manger to a man who marries her even though he is convinced he had nothing to do with it but that he was told in a dream by an angel, “fear not Joseph to take Mary as your wife for what she has conceived is of the Holy Spirit”
Today young and old alike have read and seen movies about Harry Potter and some years ago, “Star Wars”, Jeddai etc. What would life be without stories of flying men like Superman and Robin and in earlier years Jules Verne and his voyages to the stars, and St. Exuperys “The Little Prince”. I love the part where the Little Price has to leave and the little fox has a tear in his eye and the Prince asked why and he answers, “because you have tamed me”.
And there are so many stories of lonely people being visited on Christmas with someone bringing a gift or some hungry receive food, long lost relatives finding one another,
Around this time others celebrate the Light in different traditions and there are stories on which the Feast of Hannukah is based. Read about it. Its all about a miracle.
And the Hindu feast of Diwali, one of lights and celebrated as big in India as we may celebrate Christmas in the West. That too is based on a story that is beyond scientific explanation.
But if all these feasts were taken away, I doubt we would be any happier and i question what would life be like.
My belief in a God was cultivated ever since an early age. As a child it was filled with simplicity and as I grew and asked why and where, I was told ‘here to learn how to know, to love and to serve’ as a purpose to my life. These three things are the motivation for a healthy and wholesome life for me. There is a joy in getting to know my self and others and the universe and searching to understand the Mystery of God, there is a joy in loving without expectation, and there is an unexplainable joy in rendering service, and these three give a sense and meaning to my life.
Without these, without miracles and mysteries, Christmas could not be the same and so beautiful and serene as it is today in this world that we know.
The Peace that sung the angels that night, can still be felt. We have to be……. still……to know. May the Peace and Joy of Chistmas be yours!