It’s that time of year again. The lights are up, the tree is decorated. I’m listening to my favorite holiday tunes and getting in the Christmas spirit. The only difference… I’m in India.
Instead of evergreens there are palm trees, and instead of snow there is just a lot of sun. I am spending a few extra weeks at the Child Haven children’s home in Kaliyampoondi, Tamil Nadu. And although Christmas is not a hugely celebrated holiday in India, I was very happy to be able to celebrate the season with these beautiful and brilliant children at their annual cultural program held last Wednesday here at the home.
Christmas came early in Kaliyampoondi, even good old St. Nick showed up for the festivities. The anticipation had been building for weeks with different groups of children practicing their dances and dramas. The costumes were set, the decorations were strung. Children and staff alike were working hard to make this yearly celebration better than ever.
The day started like any other day. The children followed their normal morning routine of bathing, dressing, studying, eating breakfast, and going to school. At mid-day everything changed. The children all came home from school, ate lunch, and started preparing for the evenings show. Even the college students came home to enjoy the celebration.
As 5:30 approached guests began to arrive and the children began to assemble in all of their finest clothes. I even donned a sari, probably the fanciest dress I own. We all made our way to the dining hall, the anticipation growing with each step.
The program commenced with the children singing their regular daily prayers, which have sections devoted to each religion. Then they sang a couple of Christmas carols. Honestly, if I hadn’t already knew them I’m not sure I would have realized they were in english. Very cute. It’s the thought that counts right?
Next it was time for the dancing. These kids just love to dance, boys and girls – young and old. They get most of their moves from watching the Bollywood type movies, but some were taught to them by members of the staff and some of the older children. They are all very talented. Their energy and exuberance was infectious, my cheeks hurt from smiling so much.
I put together a lovely little montage of their different dances for your viewing pleasure and cheek pain. Unfortunately the internet signal here is not quite strong enough to upload photos or videos, so those will just have to wait and you will just have to use your imagination in the mean time.
After the dancing and dramas were finished, it was time for the gifts. I’ve never seen children so happy to receive so little. Each bag consisted of a bracelets or a necklace for girls and a top or marbles for boys. They also contained a pair of earmuffs (I know what you’re thinking – but low 70’s is cold here), candy, a balloon, a pen, and an eraser. You would have thought these bags contained laptop computers, that was how jubilant and excited these children were. If a child in America were to receive a gift like this, I highly doubt there would have been a similar reaction.
Here it is more about receiving the gift, any gift, than the actual gift itself. These children have so little beyond the bare necessities, that when they do receive even the smallest of gifts they cherish them immensely. It is extremely refreshing to see this, especially being someone from such a consumerist culture myself. Genuine gratitude is sometimes hard to come by, but this Christmas it was bountiful.
I find myself a tiny bit homesick as we come closer and closer to Christmas. I am thinking about my family and friends who are so far away. I am remembering Christmases of years past and imagining what memories this holiday may bring. With each holiday song I listen to and each festivity I miss, my heart grows a bit heavier. Fortunately I have hundreds of wonderful children around me to bring me out of my gloom and show me how truly blessed I am.
I hope your holidays are full of love and joy and spent with those your care for.
Thanks for reading!