The Localist

A not so White Christmas

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I was 19 when I experienced my first ‘White Christmas’, and somehow it didn’t feel right. In case you are wondering, it didn’t just start snowing in Sri Lanka one fine Christmas; that was in Iowa, USA. Despite what all the Christmas stories and movies had taught me, it simply did not set my soul alight the way that Christmas at home had done for 18 years. That’s when I realized that Christmas is actually all about friends and family.

Although only a small fraction of the population is Christian, Christmas in Sri Lanka, like most other religious festivals, is celebrated on quite a grand scale thanks to a light-hearted spirit that readily embraces any reason for celebration. The shops and hotels put up their decorations on the 1st of December, the radio stations start playing carols and the roads become more crowded as people rush around doing their Christmas shopping. Even the tropical weather seems to cool down a little.

Being part of this Christian minority meant that my family would start preparing for Christmas quite early, and this was without any doubt the best time of the year during my childhood. The Christmas bug would hit as soon as schools closed for vacation and my sister and I would discuss and bicker over many things, including what to get our parents for Christmas. One year we decided not to tell our parents what gifts we wanted from Santa, giving them a mini heart attack!

If I were to pick one thing that is perhaps unique to Sri Lanka and how we celebrate Christmas, it would be the way we always share a plate of delicacies with our neighbors. The multi-religious nature of our population means that our neighborhoods usually contain a mixture of diverse faiths, and it is customary that when celebrating religious or cultural events, one shares the joy with neighbors, friends and relatives of all faiths. Apart from getting to feast on many wonderful types of food during the many different festivals that are celebrated in Sri Lanka, I also love that this tradition symbolizes the unity and caring nature of the people towards friends of different cultures and faiths.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!

 

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