In my opinion, religion is and should be personal. For the longest time in my head, religion was confused and mingled with rituals, and I did not particularly care for the any aspect of it, as I’d rather be left alone than to follow the numerous strictures and disciplines that the rituals dictated. I learnt to separate the two after a bit of thinking and I vividly remember 9th grade summer being quite the enlightening one. Fortunately for me, I landed in a family that subscribed to my views to a large extent. Letting me be and decide what and how I treated God and allowed His presence into the family, was and will always be the grandest right given to me as a daughter-in-law.
I studied in a catholic institution all the way. From Kindergarten (UKG) to 12th grade. I wore the a white uniform (white frock/dress up to my knees) with red tie, white canvas shoes, and with red ribbons in my hair from 1st class to 12th class. All school mornings started with school assembly, prayers and all lunch breaks ended with “O Father in Heaven”.
I have attended mass on many occasions while in high school (6th grade to 12Th). The Chapel’s 2nd bench on the right of the altar has felt all possible expressions a teenager could possibly feel. Kneeling at the pew numerous times to look up at the Holy Cross, I’ve spoken with God and imagined His comforting reciprocation that my imagination could dream up. I wonder sometimes if that’s where my brain has synapsed all those dialogs and alleys of possibilities that I now use in my words all around? But, I digress, so my prayers pretty much followed either one of the paths:
Not necessarily one relating to the other or following the other, but completely and mutually exclusive. I did rather well in my exams(for the amount of time I spent time with my class notes, I just paid attention in class and daydreamed the rest of the time), so there was no need to escape from them. Freedom from the binds, rules, regulations, customs, traditions and expectations. Sometimes even God is forced to give up and even He can’t do much once we are born humans I suppose.
So, when I was asked this question “Do you believe in Santa? Or when did you stop believing in Santa?” – I obviously couldn’t really answer the question, since we never really celebrated Christmas, except for going to mass along with my other catholic friends at school. There was always the lone star that hung in my neighbor’s front porch, and the carols that got broadcast over the TV and the PA system down the road.
The Holidays and Christmas took on a new meaning when I got my first 5 foot Christmas tree in a box at Brico in Brussels, in the cold rainy winter of ’93. I spent all weekend setting it up in the apartment near the large life size windows that overlooked the street 3 floors below. Novel good times, extending to buy a gift for the husband while tracking the tram down and venturing out by myself armed with my rusty French vocabulary and the map. Europe is so much more beautiful, festive and commercial-free than US is when it comes to the holidays. The spirit truly touches and fills the unexpected stranger’s heart.
My children knew at different times that Santa really doesn’t exist in the sense that he may or may not exist, but surely the person who gets you the gifts are your parents/uncles/friends. Fortunately for me, and I am unclear at this point how or even if either the husband or I ever consciously went about directing the train of thought, but my children have never really been gift-greedy, or have craved or wanted any particular thing. No, it is not indifference or irreverence that I speak of, it is the subdued acceptance of whatever that comes their way. On occasion it has caused a bit of dilemma on what to get them, and we take our chances. As with chances, the probability has always been 50% and that has indeed been the case, wherein certain boxes are never really opened, and the kids themselves offer it to be given away to the charitable organizations that we support on a rotating basis.
However, somehow giving’s always been easier, or more natural. What one has, one gives. Warm apple cider to the carolers, the box of brand new legos we don’t use anymore, to hardly used woollen jackets, to the teachers who don’t teach them anymore, and to the friends who are more family than family is, even words that come with no restrain.
To give something and see the person’s face light up, in surprise, in happiness, even puzzled on occasion, but always pleasant, is receiving.
I had earlier written about “giving” and how it comes naturally to a few. Whether we do it because it’s expected of us or because we want to give, the nature of the act is expansive in its reach. By giving, one touches the person’s heart, in an intimate way that drives a special and singularly private conversation and bond between the two. What happens after is irrelevant, but at that moment, it is precious and sacred even. A graciousness that can heal as much as bring on a heady giddiness, changing perspectives on the possibilities out there, to create new ripples in a quiet mind.
I don’t receive very much. I’ve stopped thinking about why or if am worthy of it. It didn’t matter for a very long time, as I really have very few wants. It’s been a herculean task to name something, when someone on teh rare occasion asks me “what do you want?” I am not sure if it’s perceived as a sign of low desire, or of exaggerated independence, or even maybe a snobbishness. It is none of the above. Perhaps I am not used to being asked, maybe my brain cannot visualize into artifacts of whatever my desire is. I am not above it all, and am by no means a content Buddha. I am a raw human being, a full blooded woman, and a child at heart, full of unspoken wishes, wants, most of simple in nature and of low monetary value. It’s the small things that create the happiest of moments. Yet, somehow, to verbalize them has been impossible.
I am a giver, and I give in a selfish way. The kind that gives me more pleasure and the only return I expect is for them to share the excitement with me. Friday saw me standing in line at the PO (automated center, what with the snowstorm holing us in for the full weekend) for an hour (there’s a longer painful story) to pack a bag of Belgian chocolates, some boorelu and a sketch I drew. My only hope is that it is received with as much happiness as was put into it.
So when I signed up to do Filmi Secret Santa at Beth’s, I was excited about the whole concept of playing the role of “secret santa”. Needless to say, it didn’t dawn on me that I was also going to be at the receiving end of another “secret santa”, until I got a youtube video of a Belly-dancing number as a surprise! It took me by surprise and so strongly, that I laughed and laughed heartily. Since then, I have gotten 2 more little surprises (gifts) in my inbox, and I am thrown into hysterical happiness. They aren’t grand or personal, but there is thought in them, and there is this excitement of getting a surprise that has taken me over!
Now I know, how it feels to be at the receiving end of surprises and little thoughtful gifts. It’s addictive. The happiness, it’s addictive. How fortunate the pampered are?!
So now you see, when someone asks me “do you believe in Santa?” – I am going to say – “Yes, I do“.
Santa isn’t this one jolly round old man from the North Pole, that’s just a symbol. Santa’s in each of us. I am a Santa to someone, and my Santa sends me little links and pictures, through an anonymous email id, and each of us have played the role of Santa to someone dear and someone far off, a stranger too.
At the end of the day, Santa is that embodiment of giving in each of us when we reach out to another.
Whose Santa are you gonna be these holidays?