Friday, December 30, 2011

My first American Christmas celebration

For family reasons, I had to be in the US over Christmas this year, which gave me the opportunity to observe and celebrate how Americans "do" Christmas.

On the sunday before Christmas, our friends took us to Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena, one of the megachurches, and it was quite a moving experience, not least because the orchestra is first-rate, and would be first-rate even for a professional one (this one is of course a purely volunteer one - quite extraordinary.

On Christmas Eve, we returned to the Church for the midnight service, which was candlelit - totally magical.

Even for a die-hard anti-christian (me), it was something to see these so well done, balancing the performance aspects with things that involved the participants, whether singing or prayer or passing the peace....

On Christmas Day itself, our hosts had family together in order to read the Bible together, and to talk to God (and listen to God) together.

We were also at two different Christmas parties. One was a relatively straightforward evening, not unlike any other family celebration, though the father of the house has the hobby of being a gourmet chef, so the food was excellent (though I speak from first-hand experience only regarding the vegetarian dishes, of course; for the non-veg dishes, I am simply reporting the views of the others there).

The second party was quite extraordinary (at least from my point of view): there were about 50 people there, family and friends, all ages; there were drinks and quickbites to welcome everyone, then a parlour game involving accepting a random number, which indicated the order in which one could go to the tree and pick a packed present and share the excitement of presents being opened - but the next in line could ask for any of the "open" presents, which added to the piquancy of the occasion! - but all the presents were fun so it all went very well. This was followed by about an hour of carolling led by a choir from a nearby public school (very good). No idea how late some of the other stayed, but we took off at about 9pm as I am an early bird.

On mentioning the above to another American friend, here's the response I had: "I'm happy you enjoyed your first-ever American Christmas Party. I don't really think that gathering should be considered a typical American Christmas Eve. The family and friends part, absolutely! I can only speak from my own personal experiences and say that my childhood Christmas Eve's were roast beef and mashed potatoes, and I'm certain we children provided all the Christmas carols!!!!! And our "Santa Claus" only brought pajamas for all the children and we were expected to put them on, fall asleep and let the adults have some fun!!"

Well, all I can say is, thank God I wasn't offered that cuisine, or I would have had to be content with mashed potatoes. And the idea of Santa presenting pyjamas to the little ones so they can be sent packing seems like a good bit of respite for the adults, but no fun at all for the children!

It was quite interesting to see how many homes and how much of the public spaces were all lit up for Christmas - and it is sad to reflect how Indian homes are being lit less and less now for the Indian festival of lights, Diwali.

Would I have another Christmas in the US? Yes, gladly, though I suspect that this might be my only one in the USA, as we don't have any of our close family there, and Christmas is, like Diwali, more a family time than anything else. Sphere: Related Content

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