The month of December is awaited by many for quite a few reasons. One because this month heralds the end of the old year. Two because it also brings with it winter which is so much more enjoyable than the hot and sweltering summer months. But most importantly this month brings with it a festival that sadly comes only once a year. And that is Christmas or Xmas or Noel. Call it by any name, it still remains a festival of joy and merriment with holly wreathes, carols, cakes, cookies and gifts galore. And that is that all exactly a week later we get to welcome in the New Year which holds promises of health, wealth, happiness, success, contentment and peace.
Feast and festivities
Preparations for Christmas start nearly a month in advance. Ingredients for Christmas cake and Pudding are shopped for from the choicest shops. Dry fruits for both are marinated in rum or brandy so that they are well matured by the time they are to be used, giving the cake and pudding the traditional flavour and taste. The centre pieces that steal the show are the Christmas cakes and baked goodies. Goodies smeared and loaded with the richness of chocolate and whipped cream.
A lot of animated discussions take place while planning menus for the entire week. Lists of gifts are made and hectic shopping sprees are common during month leading to the festival. Some people get their homes painted and new curtains and upholstery are ordered for. Then starts feverish activity in the kitchens when batches of cookies and more than a dozen other sweetmeats are prepared.
And of course, how can one forget the Christmas tree. Standing tall with pride, the trees come in various sizes to suit the budget and space. Adornments for the tree are needed too if previous year’s stock needs replenishment. Then of course the piles of gifts, all done up in shiny paper and crisp bows, create a wonderful sea of excitement and anticipation around the Christmas tree! These will have to wait till Christmas morning to be opened with lot of glee.
The preparations reach a feverish pitch on Christmas Eve. The entire day is spent cooking the feast for the next day. No devout Christian will miss the midnight mass which is held to rejoice the birth of the Lord. The churches resonate with sweet music, prayers, hymns and carols. People come to Church dressed up in their new clothes and other finery and pray with full devotion. Greetings of 'Merry Christmas' reverberate in the air and it is nearly at dawn that they enter their homes for a short nap if at all there is time for it! The children are restless for their gifts and early Christmas morning they rush to where their gifts await. As gifts are exchanged, the cake is cut, vintage wine brought out and members of the family toast each other and wish for happiness and prosperity.
On Christmas morning since medieval times, church bells have been rung to announce to the world the coming of the Saviour. It was customary from the 18th century to wear new clothes and carry a small bell to signify the birth of Christ. The ringing of the bells was to signify the importance of His Birth.