21 Dec 2012

Hindu Style: or, what a Jamaican-American-British-European Hindu does at Christmas


“Watching my friend’s family argue over the rules of Secret Santa made me aware how many Hindus are pretty loosey-goosey about adopting cultural traditions, as long as they’re fun.” – Shubha Bala, On Being.


      We’re planning a pretty fun Christmas in my family – going away to a holiday house in a picturesque village in eastern England where we hope it will snow and the stone and pebble beach will be covered white and we can walk along leaving our footprints. Inside by the fire, we will have a large tree, brilliantly decorated and sparkling, stockings will be stuffed with chocolate oranges and left at the foot of the children’s beds, they will wake up on Christmas morning and rush down to tear open presents from Father Christmas and hope that they haven’t been so naughty that Krampus has come instead and left them boiled potatoes instead of toys. And we will go have a traditional English Christmas Lunch at a nearby pub, and on Boxing Day we’ll make a Jamaican curry and sit by the fire, flipping through the Radio Times to choose what to watch on tv.

This hodge-podge of traditions comes naturally to us, as we bring all of our various traditions and backgrounds and experiences to bear on our unique take on the holiday season. I was born in Jamaica but raised in a Christian family in the USA, so I was raised celebrating Christmas as a cultural and religious festival mixing Jamaican and American traditions. My husband was raised agnostic/atheist in Britain, so he celebrated it mostly as a cultural one. And while my children, British born and raised, consider themselves Hindu “like Mummy,” Christmas is something they learn about at school and is just ‘in the air’ in the culture around them. And it’s just so much fun and they enjoy all of the activities and plays and singing and games…. At home, we make up our own cultural festival with a strong focus on family, with the religious component coming from our usual daily prayers and my son doing his own thought-experiments about how Jesus and Shiva might be related: “I think they’re just like cousins!” he announced one day.

And as my son also said the other day, “We may not be Christian, Mummy, but I love Jesus and this is his happy birthday, and this is all about being in love with our family and with God and loving our selves enough to share what we have with one another.”

Out of the mouths of babes… couldn’t have said it any better myself…. so I will leave this little blog post with that.

Enjoy your holiday season, everyone, no matter how you celebrate it. It’s a beautiful time of year – and I’ll see you all back here in 2013!


From Nick TV, a Bhangra Jingle Bells Smile