Those who live here know that North America winds down mid December.
There are holiday parties galore and much talk of food and celebration everywhere you turn.
The Christmas lights are up in most homes and this holiday cheer pervades the malls and all public places.
Families go on expeditions to buy freshly felled trees to bring into their homes the sweet and spicy fragrance of pines that they decorate with ornaments and glitter.
Children meet Santa wherever they go.
However, political correctness prompts us to refer to this time not just as Christmas but as the holiday season to include, prominently, Jewish holidays, Kwanzaa, a celebration of African heritage, and a multitude of others representing the religions of its diverse population. Religion or no religion it is that time when folks wind down work and just chill. When we first landed we were fascinated by the frenzy and rushed to the malls to catch the deals on thanksgiving, brought a real tree into our home, baked cookies and cakes and did everything except roast the bird. We joyfully joined in on parties where we tasted mulled wine or hot apple cider and eggnog, exchanged gifts wearing Christmas colours and Santa hats, and even made snowmen with a carrot for a nose, buttons for eyes whom we dressed with mitts and hats in festive colours. We kept cookies and milk under the tree for Santa and did the gifts exchange so our daughter did not feel like she was missing out.
Over the years the real tree was replaced by a fake one and all those adopted Christmas traditions have fallen away so like the pine needles from those trees.
Today, true to our agnostic selves we treat every religious holiday as a reason to celebrate with friends, making a happy social event of each. We attend Passover meals, part-take of Id Iftar and of course attend a multitude of Diwali parties. But those holidays notwithstanding, it is at this time of the year that people release their collective breaths, abandoning the routine and the mundane, while making a concerted effort to spread cheer among friends, family and even strangers. Every email sign off includes joyful wishes and the mail is peppered with cards carrying tidings of love, peace and hope. Customers and vendors shower us with confectionery cakes, cookies and gifts and office parties abound. Its also that time when we remember our less fortunate brethren and give generously to charities and food banks. All these rituals make for a happy preoccupation so we can put off commiserating about winter, when the days are short and the air is cold.
I must say off late, with climate change, we see few signs of a white Christmas even here in Toronto, much to most people’s disappointment. As we take stock and reflect on what is important, I realise, for me its about embracing who I am, at any given time.
For now, a fan of Atif Aslam and romantic Hindi serials on the one hand and pass-times like yoga, walking, cooking, reading and indulging my passion for social justice, on the other.
Happy and safe holidays, everyone!