Festive fervour away from home

These Delhi-NCR residents recollect their favourite Christmas memories from their home countries

Published: 24th December 2021 08:05 AM  |   Last Updated: 24th December 2021 01:51 PM   |  A+A-

Rati Marwari (left) at a community Christmas celebration;

Express News Service

Bright lights, mulled wine, plum cakes, and evenings of revelry; while Christmas is about food and festivities, it is primarily about being with your loved ones. As lively as this time of the year may be, Christmas can also seem bittersweet if one is celebrating the holiday season away from home. A few expatriates residing in Delhi reminisce about the time they spent in their home country. Facing holiday blues, they express the sadness and joys of being in a place away from home at this festive time.

Recalling moments and traditions
Michael Crone, a resident of Noida who moved to India in 2018, recollects memories of the Christmas he spent in Germany, his home country. Crone shares, “This [Christmas and New Year] is a very cosy time in Germany. It is winter there; a perfect time to bake. And there are lights everywhere.” Crone specifically looks back and reminisces about celebrating during the advent season, the four-week period leading up to Christmas. “The entire family would gather for the advent, usually on a Sunday, and have coffee or hot chocolate along with cookies. Sometimes, we would bake cookies together. This would go on for weeks. You gradually come into the mood of Christmas,” he adds.

Talking about how different the traditions are in India, he says, “In India, Christmas is not celebrated this way. One can find some decorations but it is not like people do something special on Christmas. Of course, I am missing it [Christmas celebration in Germany] because you are used to Christmas plans as a child.” How will he celebrate Christmas this year? Crone mentions he is planning on cooking a traditional dinner. “I want to cook traditional food but all our guests are vegetarians (chuckles).”

A past of good times
“The smell of oranges takes me back to this time of the year in Russia,” shares Rati Marwari, a Russian who moved to Delhi in 2014. “At this time of the year, usually around Christmas and New Year, the aroma of oranges and cookies fills the air in Russia,” she adds. An ISKCON devotee, Marwari—who is a music teacher by profession—celebrates Christmas on a community level by volunteering with an NGO that works for the upliftment of underprivileged children.

However, the memories of her time in Russia are alive in her heart. “I was telling my husband a couple of days ago that in Russia, during this time, people would go home to home for lunch and dinner... they would give gifts and celebrate the day together.'' Since the Russian Orthodox Church follows the Julian calendar, most Russians celebrate Christmas on January 7. Marwari, thus, recounts that the first ten days of the new year is when almost everyone in the country extends their celebrations. “It also snows very heavily in Russia at this time. This year, I really miss the snow and the many fun games we used to play in the snow,” she concludes.

A home away from home
For Tatsiana Chykhayeva, who moved to Delhi in 2017, Christmas is usually associated with work. The hospitality professional, who now runs a restaurant in the city with her husband, mentions that Christmas is usually a busy time of the year for her. Despite the rush of the festive season, it is also a time that triggers warm memories of home.

“Back in Belarus, we celebrate Christmas twice [on December 25 and January 7]. It is an entire month of celebrations. I miss the snow as well as the decorations—the trees and the lights. Of course, it [the decorations] also happens in Delhi but only in select areas. So the overall vibe is missing,” she shares. Chykhayeva, who also runs a community of expats in the city, mentions that she hasn’t celebrated Christmas with her mother and siblings for quite some years now. “On Christmas, everything used to happen at home, around the table. Everyone met and they wore their best dresses,” she recounts.

“This year, Christmas is about me, my husband, and our dog. All of us have got matching sweaters for Christmas,” she laughs.

Treasure trove of memories
Artur Przybylski, a classical dancer residing in Vaishali, moved to Delhi from Poland in 2012. This Christmas, Przybylski will be cooking a number of traditional dishes for a small get-together he is organising with friends and neighbours. However, he adds that these celebrations are in no way close to the ones he would have with his family in Poland.

Recalling family traditions, he shares, “My mother and grandmother would prepare 12 dishes for Christmas dinner. In the morning, all the children would decorate the Christmas tree and then, we would continuously look for the first star in the sky so as to begin dinner."

“In Poland, we would spend three days eating. Lunch at one grandma’s house, dinner at the second grandma’s place,” he adds. Like Rati, Przybylski also has fond memories of oranges. “This year, I have already stacked some oranges on my shelf,” he concludes.


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