A Holiday Shift in Focus

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Some months ago, I was having a conversation with a friend on the topic of scaling back the usual to-do when it comes to preparing for holiday celebrations. She is Hindu and does the most when it comes to Divali, the Hindu festival of lights, perhaps the most festive on the Hindu calendar usually celebrated in October. In a moment of reflection perhaps fuelled by past experience, the timeframe and on becoming a mother times two (toddler and baby), she realized that she may dial back the effort as she is usually A+ when it comes to creating the festive feeling when the second half of the year rolls around.  In the midst of the light-hearted banter about a serious topic, I thought about us adults, children and holidays.

I am entirely convinced that holidays are for children and this is simply based on two things: one, the joy that a child feels and expresses during holiday festivities could never be purely experienced as an adult and two, the fact that most, if not all, adults can place a finger on a seasonal memory that occurred when they were children and which they use as a point of reference. For me, when I was a child my father used to invite a parang* band over to celebrate his birthday which was Christmas Eve with the festivities leading into Christmas Day. I remember my sister and I used to force ourselves to stay up for that excitement (ranked higher than waiting up for Santa Claus) because the merriment, music, eating and drinking was something that didn’t happen on that scale during the year. Associated with that, was the particular smell of the carpet when it was vacuumed, scrubbed and dried. To this day if I hear certain parang songs or smell a carpet being cleaned there is an unbeatable joy that creeps into my heart which I know is stored there since childhood. Weird, but true. Nostalgia is a hell of a thing and when that hits, it hits hard, sometimes to the point where tears flow (I don’t cry when a carpet is being cleaned but you get my point).

Now adults and particularly parents, are taken up with ensuring that the holidays mean something (no matter how grand or miniscule) so that memories are created, and memory-making can indeed be hard work. Why do you think you take so much pictures with your phone of your children, your lunch, your face, your nails, your commute to work, your drinks, the moon, the sunsets and the rainbows? You are recording your life because on some level you don’t want to forget what you’ve experienced which of course naturally happens as we age.

This is why at holiday times we may feel inclined to ensure that they are well enjoyed. For some it may be putting out the best décor, food, drink and gatherings of family and friends and in putting out the best so that the memories are created (because it is once a year after all), sometimes we lose sight of the purpose and the overwhelming feelings of preparation anxiety kick in. For women who are the captains of this particular ship, this may work in direct conflict with the effort we have been employing alllll year to ensure our #selfcare, #balance, #metime and related hashtags which have become the order of the day. So we start to think about scaling down without losing the flavour.

I usually go crazy with Christmas decorations but when I was doing my ‘summer cleaning’, I discovered an intruder rampaging in my storage. I shall call him Mickey and he had a jolly old time. Mickey forced me to discard everything: garlands, balls, tinsel, flowers, ribbon, lights and nativity scenes. As mad as I was (still am), I was really on the fence as to whether I should repurchase all my stuff. This year got a tree, lights, another nativity scene (this is a must) some balls and that’s it. I’ve warmed to the idea of not having to hurt my head to find my ‘colours to match’ for my décor. My teen, tween and toddler gremlinz will hardly blink an eye at a missing snowglobe, my husband worse yet.

Perhaps as adults we have been oversaturated with the commercialization of the holidays over the years, the hustle, the bustle and the perfection, that we are returning to keeping the pure, meaningful moments dear for the sake of keeping our minds clear. It’s like children who unwrap the gift, take out the toy and then joyfully play with the box. Keep it simple. That is something I could definitely get behind as my sanity is precious to me. It’s the final weekend before Christmas day, what about you?

 *https://www.nalis.gov.tt/Resources/Subject-Guide/Parang

Well Happy Divali yes!

In Trinidad and Tobago tonight is the eve of Divali, the Hindu festival of lights, the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil. Tomorrow Hindus pray to the goddess Mother Lakshmi for wealth and prosperity, for her to fill their homes which will be beautifully lit with deyas and celebrations will be had.

Today some schools (I say ‘some’ because I suspect not all) give children the option to dress in East Indian wear to celebrate and give significance to the East Indian community because the festival is largely cultural as it is a deeply religious observance. My gremz both attend Roman Catholic primary schools and the request is the same every year which is no big deal to me because like I said Divali is also very much a cultural thing and Trinidad and Tobago is chock full of different races and cultures mixed into one. So even though children are of African, Chinese, Syrian, European descent, East Indian wear is welcomed. 

Now Mam’zelle wore East Indian clothing and Son-son didn’t. He said he didn’t want to be noticed too much which is fine with me while she was down for the fanciness. This afternoon I picked them up from school and in the car we had the usual banter of what happened during the day. She told me “Mummy ‘soandso’ and I wore the same thing, could you believe that?”. I replied “wow! twinsies!”, glad that she wasn’t mortified. She’s very particular about what she wears, but then she said “…and thennnn ‘soanso’ tell me ‘why you have on that? you looking ugly!'”…….I understood the underlying meaning and looked at her trying to gauge her emotional state at the recollection. Then I tested her by saying very matter-of-factly “And?”. She replied “I know right? I was still feeling sad though”. It was her first time wearing East Indian wear, last year she was sick and didn’t make it to school so she missed out. I told her that she looked beyond beautiful and anybody who couldn’t see that is probably blind.

I’ve arrived at my point. There is a blindness that pervades this Trinidad and Tobago society which is beyond irritating. I get that there are residual historical, societal and cultural issues and biases that affect and are passed down from generation after generation. But….have mercy……when will it stop? A next ten/twenty years and the same nonsense? When do we begin to teach our children or to reflect to them the appreciation of the beauty and culture of all races especially in this country? The Indian/African/Syrian/’Chinee’ thing is so played out. One doesn’t have to subscribe to a religion or be a certain race to show tolerance, understanding and appreciation. This doesn’t stand for Hinduism alone, I’m ‘African’ and Catholic, not Orisha which I guess makes me less of an ‘African.’ I’m blasted for what I believe and practice which by the way is a freedom I enjoy without having to prove the rightness and wrongness of Catholicism. Don’t even get me started on Islam.

So back to Mam’zelle. I posted her dress pic early on Facebook this morning and 38 people clicked like on the photo. It may sound trivial but those 38 people, though not children,  reaffirmed what it means to be Trini for me. They helped me to make my point to her that it does not matter what some may think, in this country there are others who will disagree, do away with the blindness and still strive to make this country the rainbow that it should be.

Shine light in your hearts man, sounds good to me. What do we say about every creed and race in the National Anthem? We sing it twice for crying out loud! Sigh.

Bless up

TMIDM