Christmas in a predominantly non-Christian country is something very different than in our home countries. People go to work, shops are open, and you are able to have a normal day if you wish. Some of us celebrated away from our families for the first time, and there was some homesickness sprouting up here and there among our group. However, for the most part, Dec. 25th, was a fantastic day for us here in India. Even though normal Indians don’t take the day off, we were free to explore and
spend the day as we chose. Some of us spent it hanging out where we are staying, Youth Camp Fraternity, some spent the day at the beach, and some just explored a little bit. Jen, my room-mate, and I in particular had fun riding around on my new scooter which finally granted us freedom at the perfect moment. We found what we think is a palm tree farm, checked out the beach and health center, and bought 26 tiny candles made here in Auroville to use at our present opening later in the evening.
Even though Christmas isn’t typically celebrated here in India, signs of it were here and there. Shops, particularly in Pondicherry, had typical commercial Christmas decorations here and there, and these large, five-pointed star lamps meant for the holiday, were being sold everywhere. Strangers on the street would wish us “Merry Christmas”, showing just how nice the people here can be.
In lieu of family, our group gathered to exchange gifts. But instead of buying something for a specific person, we all bought just one with a spending limit of about 300 rupees, or about 5 Euros. Prof. Talcott played some jazzy Christmas music, we lit the candles, and ate holiday cake from Naturellement, the organization we visited the previous day. A palm tree served as our Christmas tree, with flowers for decoration. Our wrappings were also meant to be sustainable. Instead of using traditional wrapping paper for the gifts, we used scarves, banana leaves, fabric bags, postcards, even the hair-net we had to wear while visiting Naturellement.
We exchanged gifts by playing a game where a person, who’s name was drawn out of the holiday cake box, picked a present from under our Christmas-palm….or “steal” a gift from someone else who’d already chosen a gift. No worries though, that just meant the gift-less person got to choose another to open or “steal” from someone else. That made the exchange much more communal, with the idea to just have fun no matter what you ended up with.