In December most of the people rush home to join their family to celebrate Christmas. When I first came to Bangalore I hated the fact that I would get holidays that would only begin from 22nd December. No matter where you live, Christmas celebrations always begin before the 22nd. After the first Advent Sunday masses are celebrated people begin their preparations. All these years when I was in Goa I used to see my mom buying all the ingredients to make the Goan Chirstmas sweets like Neureos, Kulkuls, Cake, Bhatt, Kokad, Dodol, Bebinca, Milk toffee, Nankhatai, Pinaca, Cocad, Bolina, Perad (Guava cheese) etc. that would be distributed to the neighbors on the 25th or if any guests come home that month.
Buying these ingredients was fun, and so was watching everyone bargain for lightings and decorations in the market. Staying awake in the afternoons during this season would be a challenge for me as I always had a habit of taking a nap in the afternoons. At that time all the interesting things would happen not only in my house but all over Goa, people would begin to make sweets which were the best part for me. No one would ever see me eating so much during the whole year but I would, for Christmas. The moment my mother and grandmother would sit in the kitchen to prepare any sweets, I would be there. I would sit near them on a bankin (a small bench like thing) and watch them. Until the eighth standard my grandmother would never let me touch the dough. And then one day when she finally let me help her, my long nails made sure that everything I touched was ruined. While I was filling Neureos (Gujia) with peet (a mixture of fired coconut powder, raisins and tutti fruitti) my nails kept poking holes in it. She yelled at me and my mother had to make them all over again.
On Goa’s Liberation day, 19th December, most homes are spotted with Christmas parties where children are invited. I remember waiting for this day in excitement as well as fear: excitement for playing all sorts of games and trying to win at least one prize and meeting friends, fear because I have always found Santa scary. I recall the number of times I made a promise to myself – something about being strong but the minute I entered the party I knew that there would be some guy with a mask and a long beard to greet the kids. This year when I went to help in a party like that, I heard parents telling their children, ‘The one who pulls off Santa’s beard will get a prize’ and all the kids ran behind him but no one managed to get hold of the beard.
They made cake very often in my house and I couldn’t stand eating it. I was bored of eating the same thing every day for tea. Bebinca and Dodol, were my all-time favorites.
After moving to Bangalore, for a long time I felt frustrated during Christmas. I would see lightings and decorations all around me and miss home. Many asked me about Bebinca that made me feel bad and miss home even more.
Every year mother would get me to taste the sweets she prepared — sometimes in front of my grandmother and sometimes not. Recently, I observed that my mother made a cross out of the first dough and fried it. Upon asking, I found that in many of the houses they do that as a tradition, so that the task is well fulfilled.
During the second week, the cleaning of the houses would start. You would see all the neighbors not only washing their cars etc. but also washing their walls, the floors and even painting them if needed. In the second week, the church would have small competitions like card making, star making and crib making competitions for children. When I was a kid I remember that I never took part in any of those.
When we were kids we would be all excited to make a crib for the house and the planning would start beforehand. We would try and demonstrate which grass we would use for the crib etc. making a well would always be something that made my brother and I feel happy. Strain mud would be a challenge for me I could never do it without spilling it on the floor. We would start collecting pebbles, gravel stones, and hay. There would be discussions on whether to use wheat, moog or nashne (small dark brown seeds that look like mustard). To get these sprouted wouldn’t take time but it would vanish overnight. The reason was that ants would just carry it and take it away. We didn’t make cribs every Christmas maybe only 4 times of the 20 years. There would be a crib welcoming you in the verandah or the balcony. Though the crib would have the same things used in it every crib would have its uniqueness. I have never been fascinated with crib-making. I always found it to be a lot of work. My brother would be so obsessed with it that he would never sleep in the night since he was afraid that ants would eat up the nashne in the crib and there would be no grass in it.
The beginning of the third week everyone would start decorating their houses. Now that all the sweets were prepared, people ran to the market to buy new clothes to wear for mass on that day. There would be some who would think about it before and would be ready for it. Going shopping in the third week is a headache, all the markets would be crowded as ever there wouldn’t be place to walk, and it feels like you would get lost in it. The prices of dresses are so costly that off season one could buy two of those in the same money.
In no time lightings and all the decorations would be put up in the market and immediately one would get the Christmas feeling. If you go into the market and look around every shop would have something Christmassy. The shops that are well to do will also arrange for glass paintings of snowman, Christmas tree, Santa and even the crib that would make you feel that Christmas is here.
Every year around the 20th my dad would start decorating the house with lightings. Lightings were always his department since he was good at connecting wires and stuff, I on the other hand would do the house decorations and we would split up work like that. We would mostly start off early in the evening before tea and so I could never sleep those afternoons. He would start off before telling me about it but I would immediately get up and start helping him in the small bits I could. His first instructions would always be get a tester, cloth, tape and so on. We would start with the top most part of our house, the terrace – the scariest part of my house because there is no proper safe route to land up there. I always had to climb up a ladder that didn’t have any side support to hold on to, I would always have to convince myself that I will not fall no matter what. After the ladder, would be a narrow path way through the sides of the roof that would lead to the terrace. The width of the path way was only one and a half span of my hand and my heart would be in my mouth while I used to cross it. My dad and I would be so engrossed in the work that we would never get a chance to speak about anything else other than that. After deciding the pattern we would fix the lights with tape from the terrace, then move to the first floor where the star would be hanged as always and later to the ground floor and the garden. Every year dad would make the house look like a bride since I was always fascinated by lightings. On the other hand my brother would just sit in a room and play whatever he was obsessed with on the laptop.
By now the lightings and the star would be lit up by all the houses. In the night one could easily identify the Christian houses the interiors too would be decorated with Christmas decorations, all the houses look like brides in the night. I would always tell my friends in my lane the house that is lit up from top to bottom is mine. Normally when there is a wedding a house or a building would be lit up like that during this season it feels like most of the houses have a wedding happening soon. When you look at houses like that you get a happy, jolly, excited feeling of Christmas. In these three years I have never got the feeling of Christmas until I’m home. Bangalore doesn’t make me feel like this season is here though it is cold.