Friday, December 12, 2008
It’s Not Christmastime
The weather outside is frightful. Frightfully warm. In fact, colleagues who have lived here all their lives are worried, because it just hasn’t cooled down like it should have by now. Nobody sings songs about this, about the joys of walking outside in mid-December and cursing the fact that you put on jeans instead of lightweight cotton clothing.
In the office, there are (fake) Christmas trees, strung with shiny garlands and blinking lights. A friend bought a potted plant and put lights on it and called it her Christmas tree. Mine, too, is 100 percent fake. It makes no pretensions though – it’s not even green at all, but silver. There is no good, wholesome, welcoming smell of fir trees and cedar boughs like there ought to be at Christmastime.
Speaking of smells, there are no bakeries making festive cakes and gingerbread, and nobody’s drinking hot chocolate or spiced cider or mulled wine. You can’t walk outside and take in a breath scented with the crispness of a winter evening combined with the warm smell of your neighbor’s woodburning stove.
There are few buildings decorated with lights, no store window displays with warm boots tromping through fake snow, and you can’t walk down the street and see lights from a tree or a menorah or any other holiday-related item in people’s windows. There aren’t any big gatherings of friends or families for the holidays to make the home feel like a special and welcoming place. (Though there is a holiday party at work today – but for some reason it just lacks that special something.) There aren’t lots of people out shopping, thinking of what they could give their loved ones that would make them especially happy.
Bombay today smells the same, acts the same, and looks the same as at any other time of year (save Diwali, when there’s lots of fireworks). People are actually applying for visas to “see Christmas in the U.S.” even though most of them aren’t Christian. Now I know why. The magic of the winter holidays doesn’t come to Bombay. It just doesn’t feel like Christmastime.