At the end of 1999, even in the foothills of the Himalayas, there was talk of computers and planes crashing. Some said the world was going to end on the 1.1.2000. We were disappointed. We had just learnt how to recognise the high pitch screech of the when-to-send-the-fax signal. It was stressful. If we missed the crescendo, because of the bad connection, we had to dial the number all over again; and again and again. We had also just started enjoying our desktop computer with its mouse and chubby monitor. We were ready for the world to end, but we weren’t quite ready for our computer to crash.
It seemed that everyone wanted to give that Christmas and New Year all they had. The Chairman of the Mussoorie City Board asked us to put on the Christmas/Millennium Parade. During the discussion phase, one of the wonderfully moustached board members suggested we had a Santa Clause. Tony gently and humorously replied, “Sir, that would be like having Mickey Mouse at Gandhi Jayanti.” They smiled and got the point.
The board provided an open truck for our band, the sound system, police support and everything else we needed. We sang and danced from the top of Malenga Hill all the way to Picture Palace and along to Library side picking up crowds of people on the way. Other communities joined in and many local people told the Christmas story. When we got to Library Chowk, everyone let go and came out with their favourite dance moves to welcome in the new Millennium; no matter what happened to the rest of the world.
Tony and I weren’t into the commercial side of Christmas. Our children knew it was a day to celebrate Jesus’ birthday but they also knew we celebrated Him every day. We had only two Christmas trees that I can remember: The first one was in Goa where Christmas was a BIG deal. I got a big piece of poster paper, cut out a tree and stuck it on the lounge wall. The girls loved decorating it with stickers and drawings. The second one was an umbrella tree; we opened the umbrella, put it in the corner, hung shiny balls from the spokes and put a few presents underneath it. The kids loved it. Our presents were simple and inexpensive. It wasn’t about how much they cost, but how much they were liked.
When we weren’t in Mussoorie for Christmas, we were in the Catholic state of Goa soaking up the sun and enjoying coconuts, fresh fish and pancakes on the beach. It was so different from wet, snowy, icy cold Mussoorie. The beach was full of little kids wearing very white Santa Claus masks. They surrounded our table as we were about to tuck into our long awaited meal. They sang Jingle Vells and Ve Vish you a Mary Christmaas in English but we couldn’t understand a word they were singing. It was both scary and entertaining. On every corner there were huge nativity scenes and massive stars hanging on steeples and poles. Goan ladies came out in their favourite frilly dresses and knocky shoes and the little kids were dressed up to the nines. Alcohol seemed plentiful and “The Miraculous Jesus Wine Shop” did slightly more business than usual.
It was fun being in the festivity of Goa over Christmas and New Year. Each village made their own “Old Man” to burn on New Year’s Eve. They were huge Guy Fawkes dolls filled with fireworks which were set alight a minute after midnight. It was saying goodbye to the old year and all its troubles and hello to the new with all its blessings.
Bob Marley was in every shack on the beach and dances could break out whenever anyone felt like dancing. He was definitely bigger than Santa, and for some, Santa was bigger than Jesus. For us, Jesus was bigger than both. No offence, Bob.