Wishing you a Merry Christmas/Christmus/Krishna

Commentator Shahnaz Chinoy Taplin writes in India Currents magazine, about her experiences with hybridized Christmas celebrations after coming to America. As reported by New California Media:

At a conference, “Clash or Consensus,” held in Washington D.C. in 2003 and sponsored by the Global Fund for Women and the Women’s Learning Partnership, I met Zainab Bangura, chair and co-founder of the Movement for Progress, a political party in Sierra Leone. When asked how it was to be a Muslim in her country, she replied: “Muslims and Christians are so integrated through marriage and in other ways that in Sierra Leone we call Christmas Christmus.”

Her comment transported me back to my youth in Bombay where we celebrated “Christmus” in a predominantly Hindu India. My Muslim mother attended a convent school and loved going to mass on Christmas Eve. Our ugly green plastic tree was strung with multicolored, electric fruit bulbs until one year when I conspired with my young and foolish maternal uncle to persuade my young, but slightly wiser, mother to let me light the tree with birthday candles—the “real thing.” Against her protestations, we lit the candles, and in a flash the tree burst into a burning inferno! Doused with buckets of water, the fire was extinguished, and passed lightly into memory.

But could the “Christmus” of her youth survive, after being trasported to America?

But Christmus didn’t always translate well for American-born children. My best-planned but worst-received Christmas was celebrated with our 4-year-old son on a December visit to the Bharatpur bird sanctuary. I was excited about doing an “Indian” Christmas for my bicultural child. From the bazaars of Jaisalmer and Jaipur, 11th-century desert towns in Rajasthan, my husband and I picked up miniature silver figurines for Riaz—a camel, an elephant, a lion, a precious Nandi (Lord Shiva’s bull), and horses in different sizes. I thought these little personable creatures would be perfect gifts on the heels of seeing live tigers and elephants in the wild at the Ranthambore Wildlife Sanctuary. Merrily decorating freshly cut branches and simulating snow with toilet paper after I put Riaz to bed, I had high aspirations for an unforgettable Christmas. Wrong!

For our son, who was used to freshly cut Christmas trees in San Francisco and had grown up with images of Santa coming down the chimney to munch on cookies and milk, this improvised Christmas in Bharatpur paled in comparison. Dissolving into tears, Riaz wailed, “Santa forgot about me, his reindeers couldn’t find Bharatpur …” I tried to reassure him. “How could Santa not find Bharatpur? It is next to the Taj, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.”

I guess nothing is perfect. As for me, I cried whenever I didn’t get Space Legos. At least we should be thankful that we can celebrate however we want. In some places (like at the college across the street from our family home in India), people are looking to ban (often through physical violence) days like Christmas and instead to promote days like “Traditional Day: A day to see how a girl looks in traditional dress.”

2 thoughts on “Wishing you a Merry Christmas/Christmus/Krishna

  1. Shahnaz Chinoy-Taplin David and I would like to get your e-mail address!

    Thank you Regula

  2. Dear Shanaz

    I loved tour article – Have been trying to find you & got this link thru’ my sister.
    Wonder if you remember me ??? Do write back if you are the same Shanaz (Gulshan’s daughter)

    Regards Rashna