I have noticed since our arrival in India that our children, when explaining or comparing a difference in this new land that instead of criticizing or judging the difference they often use the term “it’s different –not worse or better, just different.”. I would like to use that term in saying that the month of December has just “been different”. The familiar sights, smells and traditions leading up to Christmas do not exist here. There is no smell of fresh cut Christmas tree or visiting Santa at the mall. In fact there is almost NO sign that Christmas is just around the corner. In a country of 1.27 billion people, only 2-3% of that number is Christian and the majority of Christians are found in southern India, not New Delhi so the lack of signs of Christmas should be no surprise.
As we have searched and looked for ways to find Christmas in India, here are a few things we have “found”:
1. There is absolutely NOTHING about Christmas here that is commercialized. America has done quite the job of marketing, advertising, focusing on the “commercial” part of Christmas. Even the Christians we know that are locals have shared their traditions of Christmas and it is all about family and celebrating the birth of Christ. No where is it mentioned the busyness of shopping and trying to find “that perfect gift.” Yes, they do give gifts but the feeling we have gotten is that it is family coming together for a meal and some simple gift giving.
2. The whole world is not going at a frantic speed during the month of December. I believe that this may be the first year in my life since having school aged children that I did not feel overbooked from all the events in December. It has been refreshing to find time to read Christmas stories together at home at night.
3. It’s not about the gifts. A common question among children and teenagers in the US at Christmas time is “what do you want for Christmas?”. As I drove home this week with Conner and another 14 year old boy who is a native from a church activity, Conner posed that question to him. The response was, “I don’t know… maybe some shoes.”. Conner was a little taken back that shoes would be a 14 year old boy’s wish. I have found that my own children’s take on gifts has changed this year from being in India.
4. Feeling the true spirit of Christmas has nothing to do with the Christmas tree, decorations or the number of gifts you have purchased at the mall. We have very few things in our home this year that remind us it is Christmas. They include nativity scenes, countdown charts, Christmas storybooks and Christmas music. We shipped only the most important over to India and it has taught me that we really do not need the rest. Yes, I miss the smell of the fresh Christmas tree (not one to be seen here), but Tyler and I have both expressed that we have felt the true spirit of Christmas stronger this year. It has come through listening to the beautiful Christmas music and spending time together as a family doing very simple traditions.
Although I find myself having to remind me that it is December here, I am grateful for this “different” experience of truly finding Christmas in a land where it is not visible to the eye.