Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year, for very selfish and obvious reasons - holidays, and lots of presents (my birthday is a few days before Christmas). Yet, I am not alone when it comes to general euphoria regarding the month of December. There are an avalanche of Christmas parties, promotions, sales, events and decor. It's nigh impossible to not feel 'christmassy' - the feeling is almost literally shoved down your throat come December 1st.
However, this year I have felt rather uneasy about the festive season. The occasional Christmas tune on the radio only annoyed me, and the hopeless radio commercials with people going "Ho ho ho Santa says buy this ho ho ho!" made me want to remove my ear drums. The very dark Sri Lankan males in their very white Santa masks made me pity the poor children that would be on the receiving end of their attempts at being jolly.
No, something was just off this year, and I couldn't put my finger on it. Whatever it was though, it has stayed with me till today, and as a result my Christmas morning is just another late, late night.
My cousins from India are down for the holidays and they were commenting on how lavishly decorated Colombo was, and how surprised they were that a Buddhist country like ours would celebrate Christmas so enthusiastically. Yes, Colombo is all lit up, but as with almost everything in our nation's capital, it is more a cosmetic illusion than anything of real substance. Streets are lit up and shops are illuminated, simply because they know our buying masses are more likely to flock to the better lit store. Our hotels desperately put together manger scenes and reindeer, so that their paying foreign guests get just a taste of Christmas 'back home', despite choosing to be thousands of miles away. Pavements are filled with Cyprus branches, despite there being a ban on the selling of them, because everyone wants a Christmas tree in their home, just to decorate. Radio stations play awful versions of Christmas carols and hymns, label it the 'christmas song of the hour', followed by a brief message from a sponsor. It is all fairly nauseating.
Being a Christian, celebrating Christmas is pretty understandable, but I've always wondered why others do. At our carol programme at work, the Catholic priest's speech was followed by a short speech by a Buddhist priest who was invited too. My Sinhala is abysmal, unfortunately; I wish I knew what he said. I recently asked an non-Christian friend of mine and she jokingly told me that I couldn't keep Christmas to myself, and that we had to 'share' it. Is that what we're doing? Am I simply unwilling to 'share' this special holiday? My instinct is to say 'no', but it is a point to ponder.
So while I am still somewhat confused about the festivities this year, I can say that I am glad to be home for Christmas. I'm fairly boring that way; I feel that Christmas and New Year's need to be spent with family, and not with friends. I'm also glad that I'm not in Colombo, with its almost desperate attempt at being Western and cosmopolitan. I'm glad that the presents I wrapped today had real meaning, and were not simply out of necessity. I'm glad that while my Facebook feed is filling up with pictures of 'Christmas parties' with drunk guys and girls in 'slutty Santa/elf' outfits, I will be celebrating in a more sober, and yet (at least for me) more real way - with reflection, love, prayer and gratitude.
Of course, at the end of the day, I am no one to judge. To each his own, and to all, a very Merry Christmas.