By Nimisha Thakore
There are no presents under our tree, which I put up with the help of a friend just days ago. My stocking has two books in it: Mrs. Dalloway and Heart of Darkness, both of which I bought for myself at Half Price Books last week. My older sister’s stocking has only a copy of Bamboo Offshoot in it, which I generously provided her out of the goodness of my heart.
It’s quiet and drizzling outside. The barren fig tree in our backyard is dripping raindrops that can’t hug its slippery naked branches anymore (which is better, I think, than its summertime spider infestation).
The suburban streets of Flower Mound, Texas, are slick with a rain that keeps leaking from a dreary gray sky.
This is no white Christmas, and it’s happening in a Hindu household, to an Indian American family. Slightly less than conventional.
It’s certainly not a religious holiday for us, nor is it much of a cultural one for my parents, who were born and raised in India. We won’t go to church. We don’t have any out-of-town family over. We won’t, at any point, slice into a holiday ham.
But tonight, we’ll go to a family friend’s party, where we will undoubtedly consume a ridiculous amount of assorted foods – Indian, Mexican, Greek, who knows? Tomorrow, in following with our Christmas tradition, we’ll see a movie together (this year, I’m thinking it will be “Little Fockers”). We’ll likely wrap up the day with an overly spiced vegetarian Indian meal.
Unusual circumstances? Maybe, I’m not entirely sure. But It’s still Christmas!
It must be the American in my Indian Americanness, but I absolutely adore the holiday. I decorate and insist that my dad put up lights. I make mulled wine and spike the eggnog. I love gift-giving. Growing up, I sometimes missed having a traditional Christmas. I often wished we’d bought a real Christmas tree, or that we’d open one present on Christmas Eve, or that our entire extended family made the trek to Texas, or that we had a big Christmas feast, just like I saw in the movies.
But for every “traditional” Christmas I missed out on, I instead celebrated countless Hindu holidays: Diwali, Janmashtami, Holi, Navratri. I don’t feel jipped at all. In fact, I feel very, very lucky to have two rich cultures make up who I am. It was a challenging balancing act for me growing up, trying to find a compromise between two essentially black and white cultures. Yet I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Now that I’m older, I realize all I care about is being with family and friends during the holidays. It’s not the presents or the feasts or whatever else I may have thought was the “right” thing to do at Christmas. I realize also that so many other families like mine don’t have a stereotypically traditional holiday.
Perhaps ours is a slightly unconventional Christmas, a mash-up of things Indian and American, but we are celebrating it together in a way that works for us.
And in that spirit – before I duck out to get to this Christmas party, where a houseful of Indian people will spend the night yelling at each other (it’s how we hold conversations), and where the parents might at some point in the evening begin playing Bollywood karaoke – I wish you all a very merry Christmas.