Growing up in Bombay, Christmas was a special occasion. I remember getting all excited to see Santa Claus at the Bombay Gymkhana. Given the lack of reindeer in Bombay and India in general, Rudolph was replaced by an aging camel, which I still find hilarious given the contrast of the speedy reindeer to the leisurely amble of the camel!
In school, Christmas was celebrated with great pomp and we were taught all the carols by our music teacher. Once I started working, I enjoyed many evenings dining with my Goan friends singing, dancing and overeating! Moving to the Middle East, it was great to witness Islamic cities like Muscat, Abu Dhabi and Dubai having malls filled with Christmas trees and joy.
And then we migrated to Canada. And people wished us Happy Holidays! Several times when I responded by saying Merry Christmas people looked surprised. Then a Judge in Toronto decreed that a Christmas tree in City Hall would hurt the sensitivities of immigrants! And a bureaucrat in Quebec decreed decorations should not be displayed in places that the public would see or have access to.
And a joyous greeting fell prey to political correctness. How I wished these people in their enthusiasm to ‘protect’ my ‘feelings’ had met my portly dark Santa riding the bedraggled camel at the Bombay Gym they would have seen Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Jews all celebrate this time of the year!
And as Canada embraced multiculturalism, several Canadians (including the Prime Minister) wished immigrants Gong Hey Fat Choy, Happy Eid and Happy Diwali!
This year is special. My five-year-old granddaughter will celebrate her first Christmas with her own stocking by the fire place. And I hope she grows up wishing Canadians Merry Christmas, respecting their religion and traditions as much as they respect ours!
Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones!