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Xmas Lights
First attempt
XmasTree.jpeg
Global Christmas...through my lens
Turkey.JPG

Christmas always brings happiness. Since my childhood, I have always loved this time of the year. It used to be the first long holiday after Diwali. We used to have a week long holiday for Christmas. That meant no rush to wake up early in the morning. You could have a lie-in in your cozy, warm bed.

One of the highlights of this holiday was going to the Army Cantonment area or M. G. Road to see the Christmas lights and decorations of the town. We used to look forward to visit friends who celebrated Christmas.

Christmas is celebrated all across India. In addition to traditional customs and rituals, each state has their own traditions and rituals, which vary depending upon who colonised that region. For example, Goans have a Portuguese influence as it was a Portugese colony whereas Puducherry used to be a French colony.

Similar to Diwali, those who celebrate Christmas decorate their houses with lights and Christmas trees. Some communities even light clay lamps. One thing common among all communities is the midnight mass on Christmas eve. On Christmas day, family members get together, exchange gifts and eat a meal together.

A similar influence is seen on the festive food as well. Christmas snacks or Christmas meal has been influenced by local cuisine. In my state, lots of snacks were the same as the ones made during Diwali. Whereas if you go to Southern part of India, lots of South Indian snacks and curries are part of Christmas feast. Having said that, all these feasts are incomplete without many baked delicacies such as cakes, biscuits, doughnuts etc. One of my favourites were the doughnuts made by my friend's mother.

Christmas Tree in India
Christmas Tree in India

First experience of English Christmas

 

The new Millennium came with new Christmas experience for us. We moved to UK and enjoyed Christmas lights, Christmas parties etc. We were here for a couple of years but experienced only one Christmas, which was not enough to know about British Christmas traditions, food etc. During that stay, we just got a glimpse of what this festival is all about.

Kiwiana Christmas

Kiwi land introduced us to yet another wonderful way of celebrating Christmas. In New Zealand, it’s Christmas on the beach. Literally, it’s Christmas on the beach surrounded by family and friends.

New Zealanders also keep a Christmas tree, decorated like the rest of the world. Additionally, Kiwis have their own Christmas tree -The Pohutukawa tree. This tree has bright red flowers and provides shelter on the beach when you want a break from the sun.

Pohutukawa Tree
Pohutukawa Tree

Kiwis also sing carols and have Christmas service. They sing Carols such as 'Christmas on the Beach'. They exchange gifts just before Christmas lunch.

Having a barbecue on Christmas day is becoming very popular across New Zealand. Barbecue mainly consists of a variety of seafood. The Maori community have hangi food, which is cooked underground. Dessert is obviously the all-time favourite Pavlova or ice-cream served with fresh summer fruits. In southern hemisphere, Santa is treated with carrots and pineapple chunks.

In USA or Europe, the last thing you want is socks as your Christmas gift; similarly Kiwis’ last preference is to get jandals / flip flops as a gift.

Many cities arrange a Santa parade. Huge crowds gather in down town to watch this parade, which has decorated floats, bands, and loads of fairy tale characters. It's a great family day out.

Auckland Santa Parade
Auckland Santa Parade
Auckland Santa Parade
Santa Parade, Auckland

New Zealanders with English heritage still miss traditional Christmas, so they also celebrate in mid June to experience winter celebration. The dinner menu also has a Kiwi touch. The centre piece is either roast lamb or chicken, along with all the trimmings. Kumara (sweet potatoes) is also on the menu. Dinner is enjoyed with mulled wine and some warm desserts.
 

Back to Winter Wonderland


After enjoying Chirstmas on the beach for 6 years, we were back to the UK, in winter wonderland.

By then, the kids were a bit older. They were used to getting gifts from Santa. We had Christmas tree in our front yard in New Zealand so our 'Santa' used to leave their gifts in the garden. Hence, we started keeping the Christmas tree.

Outdoor Christmas Tree

During our first Christmas after moving back to UK, my little one was very worried about getting gifts from Santa. He was not sure how Santa will find out that he has moved to UK. The year we moved to London, my brother had a baby. My dad was inviting my son to India to see the new baby. He refused saying that he doesn't want Santa to keep looking for him. As per his logic Santa when will go to our NZ house will realise that we have move to UK and will come here. If he again finds that I am not in UK then might not leave the gift for me. Kids and their wild imaginations. Bless them.

Our first Christmas felt like déjà vu. We revisited the same places we visited during our first Christmas. We went around the city to see Christmas lights, explored Christmas markets, went to Winter Wonderland etc.

Letter to Santa

Next year, I thought of making a Christmas meal. Even though it was just the four of us and a friend, I tried my hand at making Christmas dinner with roast chicken. This gave me the confidence to ask a few friends the following year if they’d like to join us for Christmas turkey dinner. You surely need an army if you are making turkey.

Turkey Dinner
Christmas Pudding
Desserts
Table Setting

It was a successful attempt which resulted in a full traditional Christmas lunch with all the trimmings. Right from making mulled wine to Christmas pudding flambé, it was a whole new exciting experience for us. Everyone enjoyed so much that party carried on to the next day.

Next year, more friends joined in and since then it has become a serious affair among our group of friends. We take turns to host the lunch. Each year brings new excitement. Every year we have new theme, new games. Every year we are getting better at getting better. 

It gave me opportunity to try new starters, desserts etc. It's a great time of the year which you spend with a family away from family.

Planning for Christmas starts right from beginning of November. During this time mostly Christmas programmes on Food channels are on. I thoroughly enjoy Watching and trying new recipes suggested by different chefs. Every programme teaches something different. I learnt how to give Turkey a holy bath to keep it moist from Nigella. Secret of making best roast potatoes and tasty gravy from Jamie Oliver. How to organise and keep things ready to avoid Christmas day panic and some delicious starters to feed the army from Pioneer women Ree Drummond and a show stopper dessert Clementine and Pomegranate cake with a hint of orange blossom water from the chef Eric Lanlard.  The list is unending. Hence, this is my favourite time of the year where I learn many new recipes and also create my own. Overall, the best way to end the year by doing what I love; cooking for my near and dear ones. Most importantly, spend time with family and reflect on the year gone by counting the blessings.

It will be a decade this year that we started Christmas celebration with UK family. Hence, there is going to be a special celebration. We are looking forward to creating new memories. 

I wish you all a very happy holiday. May you have great time with your friends and family. 

Seasons Greetings!

Happy Holidays!!

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