Staying for one year in India means I get to celebrate a complete cycle of festivals. And if you know anything about India, that is a lot of celebrating. So far I've watched Ravan fall during Dussera, lit diyas during Diwali, listened to the Guru Granth Sahib read at Guruparv, and eaten Sevaya for Eid.
I didn't expect the American holiday season to be a festive time here, but as globalization would have it, the last month has been chock full of reasons to eat and dance.
For Christmas there were at least four distinct events with my library kids. The holiday is much like the US version -- more cultural than religious in the community. In fact, not one of my kids is Christian to my knowledge.
A wonderful group of 20-somethings from eMagzin, a local internet collaborative, came to grant 50 kids their Christmas wishes. The presents ranged from pleather jackets to handheld video games. Luckily the miniskirt and toy gun wishes were exchanged for something else. Later on, a local discoteque (read: nightclub) hosted a sober, daytime dance party for the kids, with our own volunteer becoming a reluctant Santa Claus.
On actual Christmas Eve I upheld my own tradition of visiting a local church for mass. The Hindi-English ceremony transplanted "Prabhu Ishu" for Jesus, and half of the carols sounded like bhajans. While there are few Christians in Chandigarh, the massive Sector 19 Catholic Church was packed for midnight mass. A brown Christmas indeed.
My birthday celebrations also seemed to last all week. I distributed a less-than-perfect trifle pudding to coworkers and friends, and some chocolate biscuits to the kids. In turn, they were much more creative in their intricate cards for me, with poems such as "Rose is a red, Blue is a Blue, Hey teacher, I love you." I even got a little pop-out Taj Mahal, and a couple of toffees.
Later in the evening I gathered with the teenage boys group at my host family's house for a mini dance party and some cake. Even my host dad joined in with some Bhangra moves.
For my actual birthday my wishes were granted as it was the start of my only three days with my mom, dad and sister this year. Coinciding with my cousin's mehendi ceremony for a wedding, I got to cut a rich chocolate cake with my entire extended family around. Even though I've felt loved and supported all year, it was especially wonderful to be with the people who know me the best of all.
New Year, on the other hand, passed through my dreams. I fell asleep after writing reports at around 10:30 in the head of my NGO's house. At 6 a.m. I was woken up for a peace talk with Afghani youth, part of my organization's peace initiatives.
The first words I heard in 2011 were message of hope, of pain, and of the future.I don't mind trading in champagne for that.