Christmas Traditions - Community puts family at centre of celebration
With Diwali coming right before Christmas, it's an easy time for Indo-Canadians to ease into another holiday before the Canadian New Year begins. Strings of lights often already adorn homes, “diyas” from Diwali, the festival of lights, are also used by some families to double as Christmas lights.
Commonly divorced from its religious context, Christmas is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and non-religious people alike.
“I think for us it's more meaningful in that we get to be with our family,” said Inder Sharma from Abbotsford. “I don't know the religious context. We do understand the meaning behind it, of why Christmas is here, and why it's celebrated, but I think we kind of take on more of a family-oriented role.” Sharma was born and raised in Canada, and she notices a generational difference among family members.
“Our parents would do Christmas, especially the gift-giving portion, just to make sure that we as kids also got gifts on Christmas. “I think our generation, we kind of took it to the next level, we're decorating a whole lot more, following more of the traditions as far as the Christmas stocking, the little details, we're also doing that just because we want to experience it more for ourselves.”
“We'll do a vegetarian lasagne or something; maybe do some Indian dishes because mostly they're vegetarian — and kind of mix the two together.” “The older generation kind of sits together and has their . . . Indian food.” Selekha.com notes that some Indo-Canadian families find biryani rice, samosas, aloo, chicken curry and other traditional Indian foods replace the North American traditional turkey at Christmastime. Sometimes Bollywood songs, Bhangra and Chutney music will also replace traditional Christmas carols.
At the Sharma's house this Christmas, 15 to 20 family and neighbours will be eating together and the family will put up its Christmas tree, hang stockings and decorate the house in preparation. “We do the full wreath and garlands and the tree, stockings, the lights, all of that,” Sharma said. Christmas and New Year's are eagerly awaited by many Indo-Canadians, and the exchange of presents among family at Diwali is sometimes extended to friends and others at Christmas as well.