Christmas was the most joyful season of my childhood
though Santa Claus did not play any significant role in it. My childhood was
lived out in a village which did not even have electricity until I reached high
school. Many people were very poor too. Only a few children completed school
education. Parents found it economically wiser to send their children to work
in the farms or elsewhere.
The parish church’s carol team was
large and lively in those days in spite of the misery of human existence. Santa
was an inevitable part of the carol team. That was the only Santa in my
childhood. That Santa did not ever bring any gifts for anyone. Rather, that
Santa took something from every home – Christmas donation for the parish.
To this day, every year Santa comes
with the church’s carol team. But drastic changes have occurred to the team.
Last year there were just three men and the Santa. One man carried the infant
Jesus, another carried the account book for entering the donation amounts, and
the third carried a drum which he beat once in a while just to let the neighbour
know that the team was approaching. No carols. The Santa looked like a lifeless
guy who was pushed into a fancy dress show that he did not want to join. This
is not even a parody of the old carol team, I thought. This is a mockery.
Maybe, soon the parish will opt for virtual carols and virtual Santa. Your
donations can be paid online. Google Pay is very common here in my village;
even the wayside cubicle shops have the QR codes for GPay.
The only place where I came across a
Santa that gave away something as gifts was Delhi. The residential school where
I taught for a decade and a half used to celebrate Christmas until the
management changed to a shady religious enterprise which killed the school sooner
than anyone of us associated with the school imagined.
The school hardly had any Christian
students. There were just three members on the staff who were Christians; one
of them was me who was Christian only in name. Yet one teacher took the
initiative to organise a small celebration with a Christmas tree and a Santa. This
Santa carried toffees galore in his bag and every now and then he would plunge
his hand into the bag, pull out a fistful of toffees and throw it randomly to
the students. A very generous Santa on an alien soil!
As a child, however, I had never
expected anything from the Santa of my parish church – not even toffees. The
church and such institutions seldom gave anything to anyone; they only took many
things from people. The situation isn’t much different even today. The only
difference is there was effervescent joy in the olden days in the antics of
Santa and the singing of the entire carol team. Now the entire exercise is nothing
more than a desolate ritual of collecting annual taxes from the faithful.
I do long for a spirited Santa during
Christmas. Not a comic figure with a belly that bulges like a misshapen tumour
and a silly mask that reminds me strangely of T S Eliot’s Tiresias [Waste
Land]. But the youngsters of the parish don’t seem interested in Santa and
carols anymore. They are all going abroad. Soon my parish may be left with some
I do put up a star and some lights in
front of my house to join in the celebrations. Santa is welcome to spread his
joy. I imagine him coming on an ethereal sledge drawn by a bevy of graceful
reindeers. Santa with a lot of cheer, the real Christmas gift.
Written for Indispire Edition 461: Santa Claus and you. Any
association or memory or nostalgia or whatever? #SantaAndMe