Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Christmas in India

We first remembered it was the Christmas season upon arrival in Chennai on 12/18. Buses of men dressed in plastic Santa masks (like the cheap Halloween ones we wore as kids) hung out of open windows, some dressed in red tunics while others only in street clothes, yelling "hello" and "merry christmas" at us as they zoomed by in honking frenzy. Definitely unexpected!

The Santa masks remained common as we headed further south to Pondicherry, and while somewhat creepy--this wasn't a jolly Santa face...something about the black slit eyes threw off one's ability to conjure a "ho, ho, ho"--it was fun to remember the holiday season at home.

Anyway, Pondy's strong French and Christian influences meant numerous hotels, guest houses and restaurants had nativity scenes and trees too. The creche scenes were neither rustic or stylized like the ones in the US and instead, kind of a funny "Barbie goes to Bethelem" type of stable and figures. The trees were fake, but had tons of lights strewn about along with lots of colorful mylar garlands and plastic glitter ornaments. (right up my alley!) Seeing these items next to blue-faced, many-armed Hindu deities, kolams (prosperity symbols) and smoky incense flames defintely made me think India has nailed how to live in multi-religion harmony.

We overnighted to Kochi via train on Christmas night, and as we coasted into town at 5:00am on an auto-rickshaw, sparkling star lights greeted us in the pitch dark at every corner. Not the natural kind of starlight, but colorful lanterns of all sizes in various star shapes hung from nearly every house! Many houses had multiple star lanterns hanging from balconies and a few even had their bushy banana trees filled with glowing stars. Neither Andy or I had seen this before and it felt especially festive to see as the town slept and we encountered a few blissful minutes without the honking and hawking of India.


Blogger Wendy said...

I love to think of you guys coming into the town early in the morning and seeing all the beautiful star lanterns, sounds like a special moment! Wendy

6:02 PM  

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