Familiar made new

GLAD TIDINGS

Familiar made new

Christmas is a celebration of bonds; a day for feasting and socialising. The holiday’s connection to Christ is obvious through its Old English roots of ‘Cristes maesse’ or Christ’s Mass.

In Bangalore, Christmas is a major celebration, not just for Christians but also for a cross section of society. Hotels and restaurants arrange elaborate lunches and dinners during the holiday season, attracting crowds with tempting fare such as traditional roast turkey with all the trimmings, plum pudding and more.

Christmas is a combination of both religious and secular traditions. It’s still very much a family festival. This is the time when all members of the family strive to be present in the family home.

For the Anthony Swamy family in Bangalore, Christmas is a time to reaffirm faith in relationships. Twenty-five people, across four generations — including Anthony Swamy’s 97-year-old mother Sebastian-ammal, Anthony Swamy, an ex-Army man, his wife Mariammal, their five children with their respective spouses and children, live under a single roof and everyone does their bit to make the day special.

“Friends and relatives drop in on Christmas day and every guest is made to feel welcome,” says Sebastianammal. She recalls that in her time Christmas was more of a spiritual celebration rather than a materialistic one. “The priority was preparing spiritually for the birth of Jesus, which meant attending daily mass during the season of Advent and making a good confession as well.”

The custom of sending Christmas cards, which started in Britain in 1840, was very popular with the older generation. It was a way of keeping in touch with family and friends at least once a year. The cards were specially chosen for their messages to suit the person they were being sent to. Anthony’s wife Mariammal recalls how Christmas cards made by the children, each with a special message, were sent out to family members. Her sons, Stanley, Raj and Vincent and their sons, now send e-mails and e-cards wishing their friends for the festive season.

Tree and trimmings

The most cherished part of Christmas arrangements, in most homes, is setting up the crib with brown paper, straw and grass to resemble the manger where Jesus was born.

Rinnie and Joy Eapen, residents of Koramangala in Bangalore, started putting up their Christmas decorations in the first week of December. The star, the tree, table decorations, the wreaths on the doors and the crib, which are put up much before Christmas remain well past the New Year and are taken down and put away only after January 10.

Gilbert, Pinto and Edwin, Anthony Swamy’s grandsons, love decorating their family house for Christmas and arranging the crib.

Pam Joseph recalls how her father would make a huge star fashioned out of steel wires and coloured kite paper every year and hang it outside their bungalow in KGF. He’d fix a bright light inside the star and people could see this huge star from quite a distance.

“Christmas trees in those days were just branches cut from Casuarina trees, unlike the beautiful, artificial trees available today. It was great fun decorating the tree with the beautiful ornaments and coloured lights. All the Christmas gifts, beautifully wrapped, are placed under the Christmas tree and they are opened only on Christmas morning,” she says.

Pam and her daughter Tanya attend the English night mass in their parish church. Pam recalls how in the earlier days, there used to be just one Christmas mass in Latin and a common carol service. The Anthony Swamy family attends the Tamil night mass in Infant Jesus Church in Viveknagar, while Rinnie and Joy Eapen and their children attend the night mass in St Anthony’s Friary in Koramangala.

Joy Eapen is an active member of the church and is in charge of decorating the altar; the Eapen family donate the flowers as well. After mass, it’s the time to meet and greet all their friends. Sometimes, after mass they visit family or friends for coffee, cake and wine, or invite friends over to their home for the same.

The Anthony Swamy family sings ‘Happy Birthday dear Jesus’ after midnight mass and a special cake is cut. Little Gilbert earnestly explains that Baby Jesus does like to have a special birthday cake like any other little child!

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