When I came to England for the first time in 1998, I was not expecting to meet and get to know people from so many nations. My Italian colleague could not understand why I spoke to my Indian (Goan/South Indian) friends in English while I seemed to use my own tongue to converse with people from Pakistan. It made matters worse for the poor man, when we tried explaining that the two languages had different scripts, but were spoken in a similar way. He had enough trouble remembering names of my colleagues from Africa, Middle East and South East Asia. Greek, Polish, Russian, German, Egyptian.... NHS employs them all.
2009 here in our staff residences, has been a good year. The celebrations started at Eid. Arrival of disposable and non disposable containers of rich sewai and steaming Hyderabadi Biryani from the neighbourhood, made our day. This was then followed by the whole neighbourhood, celebrating navratra. Some of the more auspicious days had us relishing sweets and snacks from multiple households as they celebrated in their own unique ways. Little girls were in demand too, for the well known "feast for the girls" ritual. We missed Diwali, as we were in India, but I am sure there must have been much festivity then, and finally Christmas is here.
For children living in England, Christmas is about gifts and decorations and for the local people it is also a time for family gatherings. Our customary walks to the beach were much more lively during the holidays as extended families in groups were walking together, apart from the usual dog walkers. There were even wreaths laid on the seats looking out to the sea, which had been erected in memory of couples from the previous century, who had perhaps enjoyed the beach then,as much as we do today.
Christmas is about decorated wards, shops and houses. Christmas brings to life, the otherwise depressing and dull winter. But what most families like ours, simply cannot escape, is putting up and decorating the Christmas tree and finding presents to go underneath it. Children love the suspense of looking longingly at the increasing pile of gifts under the tree to be opened on Christmas day. At work, paper invitations of various Christmas get togethers go up on walls, for people to put their names down on. Though Christmas get togethers and exchange of gifts and cards can cause a lot of stress to a lot of people, some of whom have been known to say- "I hate Christmas"
On Christmas day too, our melting pot neighbourhood, did not fail us. We were treated to sweets and snacks from a South Indian Christian family. Trying to explain to my son, why Christmas was more important for this Indian friend and neighbour, even though the rest had Christmas trees peeping out of their windows, was interesting.
His observation that he would not like to move into a big house as he will lose all his friends was made note of, by us. I will remind him, when he is older, looking for a bigger house, bigger car....when life will be much more, than tearing around over hills and plains, in rain and snow in his bike!
Hopefully he will still have friends to bike around with!