Usually this time of year I’m a little ba-humbug about the holidays probably because I don’t have a shiny, happy, white, very Brady, Walton’s, Little House Christmas. But this year I’m more grateful than usual to spend time with my silly, sensitive, strong, kick-butt, hard working, unorganized, overly consumptive, mixed-up Punjabi-Icelandic-Mexican-Italian-White family. We will make a Christmas meal with canned ham glazed with Hawaiian punch, Swiss vegetable medley, pasta salad, topped off with Martinelli’s sparkling apple cider and I won’t be an unbearable food snob about any of our hodge-podge family traditions that we all love. Of course, I will make something from scratch because it wouldn’t be the holidays if I didn’t over-complicate at least one thing this year.
And yes, my brown ass family, with turbans and chunnis we celebrate CHRISTMAS, we know it’s the day Christ was born, in a manger, where he received presents from three wise kings, but we’ve adopted this tradition like many immigrant families. I know every word to “Away in the Manger” and “Silent Night” because I sang them in the school choir and still enjoy listening to a beautifully sung rendition. And we don’t stop anyone from saying Merry Christmas, nor do we go to war over the word, it’s not offensive or strange, afterall we’ve lived in America for nearly 50 years. Over time, we’ve added other cultural traditions to balance out the season. My parents started attending a large Gurpurab, where all the Sikh Gurdwaras in Southern California gather to pray and for many years my sister played kirtan with little kids dressed in white. Most people don’t know what these words mean but it’s how we honor the birth of Guru Nanak. Like almost every faith and culture in the world, this time of year is usually marked by prayer and contemplation as we go into the dark days of winter when the nights are long and stars shine brightly.
But this year, the mood in the air feels different and like many, I’m filled with sadness and concern for our future as a society. It’s hard to ignore the signs that portend a dark turn in our history. But it’s due to this anxiety that I realize the only thing I have is my family, we’re bound by our traditions, our wounds and I love them unconditionally. Mostly, I want to hug my parents, sisters, and nieces closer than ever as we descend into a new world order. So my usual complaints and aggravations about shopping, family dynamics, and rushing around seem trivial, instead, the irritations are comforting as they’re normal and predictable. Because what is uncomfortable and downright scary are the dark clouds I see gathering, all I want to do is circle close with trusted family and friends. For once, I’m not wrapped in guilt about a glittery tree, piles of presents, a bountiful table of foods, binge-watching classic movies, and too many pieces of See’s candies. But I will think of others, make donations, help the unhoused living on my street and have a moment of contemplation for lives in danger all over the world. It seems to me the best way to honor all the pain we’ve felt this year and so I’m filled with a renewed gratitude for everything good I have in this moment. Because things may change, we may not have the same people in our lives, the same jobs, the same things, the same friends, the same country or even the same world this time next year. Now more than ever, we need to soak in the love and connections. I hope you all recharge with your loved ones, build stronger connections and find solace in your faith and traditions. We must live with love, respect, kindness, and hunker down for the long winter ahead. Much love and peace to everyone, I wish you all the best this season. Whatever way you celebrate and honor this time, may it be with lots of love and joy.