It’s hard to explain my relationship with Christmas. You could say I’ve never really liked it — but it’s more complicated than that. It may be a little more accurate to say I’ve always felt something like indifference towards it — Christmas has just never been my Hindu family’s “thing” — but then again, it’s hard to be indifferent towards something that imposes itself the way Christmas does. So I guess you could say that over the years I developed a polite acquaintance, or maybe, a working relationship with Christmas.
To be fair, there is a lot of fun built into Christmas. Who doesn’t like presents? I like gingerbread men, snow fights, “The Nutcracker,” hot chocolate and How the Grinch Stole Christmas too. When my piano teacher gave me Christmas carols to play as a kid, rather than launch into some kind of explanation, I just played them. They sounded pretty good on the piano. Santa, reindeer, the Yule log — so it never made much sense, but nobody really pretended otherwise. Of course what made even less sense to me was the religious aspect of Christmas — but most people seemed to be in agreement on that too. Christmas was a religious holiday, but the religious part was secondary to the vacation time, the shopping, and the various powdered sugar confections. When December rolled around and Christmas found me, I participated. It felt a little fake, but what was the harm?
So it was with a strange mixture of emotions that I opened a package from my mother two Decembers ago. Jay and I were expecting his parents and sisters to visit New York for Christmas, and had bought a small tree for our apartment. It was the first tree in my house in a long time (I’m sure my parents bought a tree at some point when my brother and I were little, but what I remember more clearly is the year we strung lights around a potted plant). It was a nice-looking seasonal touch, just the right size for our living room, but I felt comfortably disconnected from it — until I opened the package from my mom.
The box contained a strange collection of artifacts I’d entirely forgotten existed: Christmas ornaments I made in school as a kid. Popsicle sticks tangled in red and green yarn and felt, school photos stuck on construction-paper Christmas trees and a thin gold treble clef gifted to me by my piano teacher. There were a few trinkets my mom had handcrafted when we were younger, too: A small cross-stitched gingerbread man and some crocheted snowflake doilies. I examined them with wonder. Most of them had been in that box for a very long time. Here was the relationship to Christmas I never realized I had. Touchingly, many years of doing the bare minimum for Christmas had accumulated into just enough to decorate the small tree in my apartment with.
My mom also found a recipe for Who Hash that I dictated to my dad before I was old enough to write myself:
Who Hash: Peanut butter. Add apricots, milk. Stir it up. Put half cup butter. Let it stay in the sun. Cook it. You have Who Hash. You can eat it any time. You can decorate it with orange toothpicks.
You can make it out of whatever you want, eat any time you like, and decorate it however you feel fit, but as we all know, there’s only one season for Who Hash. Hope yours is a merry one.
photo by me: our tree