How Christmas Came to Our House

Posted on December 24, 2018

My Aunt and her granddaughter in New Delhi, India


It was January 1993. My then-six-year-old daughter, Nitasha, came home from her first day of school after winter break, completely out of sorts. I knew immediately something was coming.

“Was it fun going back to school after three weeks?” I asked.

“Nope,” she said with arms tightly folded, eyes squinting, forehead wrinkled.

“Oh no. Are you okay? What happened, babloo?” I asked, using her favorite term of endearment, yet giggling inside. How I loved their little problems and being able to help resolve them.

“Well, I’m really mad that we’re not Christian! Why can’t we be Christian? Why do we have to be different than all my friends? Why do Christians have so much fun and we are so boring?” she lamented. Her crackled voice was accompanied by tiny little tears.

“Please tell me more, my love. How do Christians have more fun than we do?” I sat her in my lap and played with her hair, trying to comfort her as she set her head on my chest.

“They get to celebrate Christmas, which is so much more fun than Diwali, and they get to have a tree and presents, and then they all came to school and told all the stories of when Santa came down their chimneys. Santa doesn’t even know who we are or where we live because we are not Christians. Can’t we just go to church and change to be Christian? All my friends even went to church together. I want to go with them!” Now she was sobbing.

“Why do you think only Christians can celebrate Christmas, Nitasha?” I asked. I was dying to know what had been planted in her mind by her peers at school.

“C-H-R-I-S-T is the word and spelling of Jesus Christ, who was born on Christmas Day, and it’s the spelling of Christians and Christmas, Mom. Don’t you know that? You have to be something with a “Christ” for Santa to have your address,” she said, looking me in the eye like I was a dummy-mummy.

When our kids were born, my husband and I had decided that in order not to confuse them, we would celebrate Diwali in our home and celebrate Christmas at the home of my sister-in-law, who had converted to Christianity. That way, she and her family could share her Hindu heritage with us, and my kids would get to celebrate Christmas and be part of the festivities with their cousins. It was a win-win! It was our “modern family” answer to living in California, the melting pot of cultures and religions—a popular term back then. We thought we had it all figured out! Until that day with Nitasha, of course.

After a little more conversation, it seemed to come down to the “shiny, bright tree and lights and presents.” So that’s how a Christmas tree and presents came into our home. I explained to Nitasha that we weren’t going to swap celebrating Diwali for Christmas. But we would have a tree and two presents for the kids to open at Christmas, then we would go to her aunt’s house and celebrate more with the family.

Several of our friends balked at this idea and asked why we had caved, suggesting that this would confuse the kids further. But my husband and I were crystal clear. We were raising our kids here in the West, and if we were not going to answer their confusion with an open mind and open heart—one that aligned with our honoring being human first—then we would confuse our kids.

Today, the word “oneness” is a trendy term. My adult kids celebrate everything with everyone! They invited their partners over for Diwali and went to celebrate Hanukkah with one of those families. And we are all going to celebrate Christmas at another’s. Yesterday, in fact, we face-timed an aunt and uncle in New Delhi, India, who told us they were on their way home from buying Christmas presents for their grandkids to keep under the Christmas tree they had at home. As a human race, we are globally owning the term “Happy Holidays” alongside “Merry Christmas.”

As you gather with your family over the holidays, do share with your children how many races, cultures, and religions are in your family. Let them know you think oneness and inclusiveness melt away our differences and lead us to acceptance, uniting us as a human race. What better holiday celebration than sharing this “JOY” with your families! What a beautiful time of global oneness and inclusiveness we live in!

Wishing all of you and your families a beautiful holiday season.