Saturday, November 30, 2013

Ushering in the Christmas Season in India

Thanksgiving came and went, and we were able to mark Thanksgiving with a buffet in our hotel (nice gesture, but what exactly was in the "pumpkin pie"?) and a very special, very unusual surprise Thanksgiving meal my Madrassa teachers threw me for lunch, again a very touching gesture that they were very pumped about.  When speaking to family members, they reported frost, cold temperatures and even that most dastardly term, "wind chill".  YIKES!  However, those landmarks also prove helpful in marking the beginning of the Christmas season, but without them here in India, we relied on our favorite Christmas carols to kick off the season.  If you don't own a copy of the following, I must encourage you to visit iTunes and give them a listen.  These are some of our stalwarts.

- Vince Guaraldi's soundtrack for "Charlie Brown Christmas".  Unbeatable.
- J.S. Bach's Magnificat:  It is Magnificent.
- Handel's Messiah:  The Hallelujah Chorus is the most known chorus, but there are others that I like better, so listen to "And the Glory of the Lord", "And Suddenly, There was…" and my personal favorite, "For Unto to Us a Child is Born".  Inspired work you should be enjoying.
- Amahl and the Night Visitor, Menotti:  A great opera from the opening notes to the last, great listening, and I believe the made-for-TV production might be available via the Internet.  Still, the music is the real attraction.
- Los Angeles Guitar Quartet playing Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite.  Soothing, energizing, lovely.
-The Chieftains' Bells of Dublin:  That crew always sounds like they are having a whole lot of fun, this time with both traditional and new carols. The ending song is sung in a pub, and you can definitely here the "spirit" of the place.
There are lots more, especially some albums of Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald, but one has to stop somewhere.

Gift giving considerations are not far behind the consumption of cold-turkey sandwiches….
Here's a link to Nicolas Kristof's article in today's NY Times on "Gifts that Reflect the Spirit of the Season".  You will find some great gift ideas for people who don't need or necessarily want more things in their lives, ideas on how to help less fortunate people both in the US and abroad.  I have my eye on a couple for upcoming birthday gifts, etc.

And then there are the foods of the season, rather the toffee, cookies, gingerbread, and caramels of the season. I really can't reminisce about those foods, too recent, too hurtful. I am relying on my sister-in-the-kitchen to keep the traditions while we are apart, and get reports of their consumption.  I don't have a stove, so no use dreaming.

Finally, we were driving somewhere on Friday evening and saw a huge creché scene outside a silk shop.  We're in the south of India, so we should expect some signs of Christianity, but we weren't accustomed to it last year in the north, plus seeing the secularization of the Christmas symbols seemed familiar but somehow weird. There are so many temples, mosques, shops for garlands and temple offerings, and randomly placed religious symbols everywhere in this country that I sense that nothing fazes Indians when it comes to this sort of display.

Enjoy your Christmas decorating, and think of me, as I always loved a well-placed Christmas decoration.  I don't believe you can overdo it, but enthusiasm has its own merits, so go ahead and enjoy the season!


  1. The Guru's recommendations are impeccable, no doubt, but I think that we can expand it with benefit:
    1. Some old contemporary, like Johnny Mathis ("Winter Wonderland"), Perry Como ("I'll Be Home for Christmas"), Andy Williams ("It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year"), and of course, Bing Crosby's "White Christmas".
    2. The Grinch Who Stole Christmas Soundtrack, "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch", at the lead.
    3. "Carol of the Bells" performed by Leonard Bernstein & the NY Phil.
    4. A Medieval Christmas album by Joel Cohen & the Boston Camarata. Add their Renaissance & Baroque Christmas albums to taste.
    5. Anything by the Anonymous Four.

  2. It's December 1st, so I purchased a Christmas tree and put it in its stand. No decorations yet, as I am waiting for the branches to come down a bit. The stockings have been hung at the fireplace and a wreath with a plaid bow placed outside by the front door. I have the Christmas cards addressed and stamped with a season-appropriate stamp. Next, I will scan the newspaper to see when one of the churches in town has their homemade Christmas cookie sale. The selection of sweet confections is amazing! A few more gifts will be purchased. Then, I will await the arrival of family to complete the spirit of Christmas. Joyful wishes for a great holiday season!

  3. Love the festive season.. I always finish shopping quickly and enjoy the cooking, music, and videos, during the month. Went to one of my favorite churches yesterday since it was first Sunday of Advent and ... no wreath ... the regular priest wasn't there but .. really? You couldn't get the Advent wreath ready any way? Kinda laughable. Kinda. Happy Holidays!

  4. P.S. Are those Martha's cookies in that photo? We had some good times making cookies in your kitchen. Delicious times.