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Is it 'Merry' Christmas or 'Happy' Christmas?

The best part about all the feasting are the leftovers. Till the middle of next month, you have sandwich fillings, icing to bite into, and that suspicious yellow thing at the back of the fridge.

December 25, 2021 / 07:26 AM IST
A Christmas feast means a lot of cooking and baking has to get done.

A Christmas feast means a lot of cooking and baking has to get done.

Though Christmas spreads in foreign books speak of mince pies, turkey with trimmings, gravy, pigs in blankets, pumpkin pie and gingerbread cookies, different parts of India go with their own festive menu. Plum cake with rum-soaked raisins and mulled wine are a given across the land. Seafood and red meat rule the roost, with marzipan, eggnog and chocolates making an appearance. Pies and prawn pulao till the eye can see…

A Christmas feast means a lot of cooking and baking has to get done. There is sorpotel, pork assado, bebinca, dobol, baath and kulkuls in Goa; Kerala serves appam and non-veg ishtew for breakfast, roast duck for lunch and rose cookies for tea. The best part about all the feasting are the leftovers. Till the middle of next month, you have sandwich fillings, icing to bite into, and some suspicious yellow thing at the back of the fridge no one knows is what.

The mass-produced plum cake wrapped in transparent plastic with the manufacturer’s name in large font across it is stocked up in plenty in the hope that someone somewhere will want to eat it. We fear running out of plum cake before the festival and end up having plum cake for breakfast, lunch, dinner for a long, long time after Christmas.

With traditional recipes and time-consuming culinary methods no longer the rage inside domestic kitchens, we are up on what to eat but not on how to make it. No wonder then people just order in or go out. This is the day we wait with bated breath for a relative, a friend, anyone to invite us for lunch! Depending on who hates their in-laws less, couples decide to visit husband’s family or wife’s. Grimly the family steps out carrying a gift dumped on them that they can’t wait to dump on another.

The artificial tree is studded with odd looking ornaments saved from previous Christmases. Before the midnight mass, the crib is set up – where the nativity scene meets curious fingers and ‘oops, the angel broke her wing’. The largest man in the neighbourhood is fat-shamed into putting on the Santa suit. He is then handed pre-marked presents to be given to the kids brought there under pressure with all kinds of blind promises. There is a lot of howling and sudden whoops of joy as gifts get swapped and go to the wrong party. Santa comes down the chimney, kids read in storybooks, and waaah, why don’t we have a chimney?

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Red, gold and green are the colours of the season, so mismatched clothes are fashionable. In the wake of Omicron, carols are being hummed under the breath. Else, loud and tuneless renderings of hymns with mutilated words are freely rendered. As greetings get muffled under double masks and the traditional hug and handshake are avoided, WhatsApp forwards are the only way to wish loved ones.

‘Happy Christmas’, say some; 'Merry Christmas', say others, because both New Year and Christmas can't be 'happy' now, can it?
Shinie Antony is a writer and editor based in Bangalore. Her books include The Girl Who Couldn't Love, Barefoot and Pregnant, Planet Polygamous, and the anthologies Why We Don’t Talk, An Unsuitable Woman, Boo. Winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Asia Prize for her story A Dog’s Death in 2003, she is the co-founder of the Bangalore Literature Festival and director of the Bengaluru Poetry Festival.
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