Winters for me is only about celebrations; quality time with family and friends, birthdays (most of my dear ones are born of December), of gastronomic delights with “sinful” desserts, Christmas tree with stars, bells and umpteen sparkling decorations, Santa Clause, outdoor picnics, a visit to the zoo (a must in my childhood days), of unadulterated fun, of love and friendship, sharing and giving.

Being a trivia lover, I prefer to garner moments from everyday life so that I can cherish them for a lifetime and the month of December is one such time which brings back a lot of memories. Childhood days for us (me and my older brother) just like most around were fun filled, nonchalant, and of unprecedented love, caring and warmth. Back then, winters meant a month-long holiday at school and traveling. My childhood days were spent in a small steel city in Jharkhand(India) where winter was usually chilly and enjoyable. The outdoor picnics with family, friends, uncles and aunts were always a treat. On Christmas Eve, my mother would bake a cake and delicacies (her own recipe) while the family gathered around thankful to have one another by their side. 

The best winter however was the one in which I felt the snowflakes on my cheeks for the first time, white as a swan and pristine as a baby’s giggle. It was my first year in the US and everything was new and somewhat overwhelming for me. I still remember the evening when I was walking back from my laboratory, so ready to call it a day, when suddenly, cotton white flakes started floating all around. I was mesmerized at first; although I had watched uncountable Hollywood movies before where I had seen the rich and the famous gaze at and walk in the snowfall. I was caught off guard at this magic of Mother Nature. It was as if all the tiredness from my system was being replaced by a feeling of happiness and awe! How I had wished my family to be around me to experience that too. It was three days before Christmas Eve and I suddenly realized that there was so much to be done. The spirit of festival was still alive in me, only I was to celebrate it with a new group of people; my new friends who soon became my extended family.  

Our lab had to be decorated, Christmas socks to be hung with tiny name tags on each one of them, cakes and cookies to be baked and so many similar chores. Our research facility was probably the one with the highest number of international students. This cross continental group shared their traditions, food, beliefs, and attire; making it one of the most culturally enriched work stations on campus. That winter we celebrated Christmas exchanging presents with each other, sharing our stories of festivals from home, singing Christmas carols and hymns (our research advisor had printed handouts for each of us) and finally a grand dinner at the end; as it has rightly been said that no celebration is complete without a plate full of delicious food! After dinner, yet again, Santa gave us a visit that night bringing in small boxes of surprise for his eagerly awaiting group of students. I was reminded of the jingle being sung to me back home in my childhood days, “Christmas comes but once a year and when it comes it brings good cheer, it brings us pudding, it brings us pies, it brings us everything’s’ that’s nice!” —my feelings of the day put down aptly.

Today I am back in the city of joy and yet again it’s the most awaited month of December. My daughter while picking up knick knacks for her Christmas tree asks me if she could hang a few of her favorite beaded accessories on the tree, “and those would be for Father Christmas himself, after all he is going to bring me my favorite pink bicycle this year.” A broad contented smile is all I have for her as I realize how different the month of December had been then and how it is today and yet I end up finding a strange familiarity in now and then!

Story and Picture Credit : Anindita Sengupta 
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