In December, our IndianTies Mystery Letter subscribers got to follow along with our penpal, Ravi and his sister, Devi, as they were “stuck” in India for Christmas. They were both feeling homesick for their traditions and were sad that they wouldn’t get any “big” presents. They were also grumpy that it didn’t feel like Christmas since it wasn’t even cold in India! (Anyone ever had kids who just couldn’t quite shift their focus from gifts and the “commercial” side of Christmas?)
We followed along as their parents surprised them and took them to the famous city of Shimla to get them into the Christmas spirit (Check out our previous blog If you want to learn more about this beautiful hill station). Not only is Shimla cold this time of year, but some years it has even been known to snow! It’s hard to stay grumpy when you are surrounded by beauty!
As the story progresses, a mystery unfolds around their innkeeper, Ms. Kumar. She turns out to be quite a scrooge! We help solve the mystery and in the process we discover the greatest gift by helping to find Ms. Kumar’s joy, and in the process, the kids discover the real meaning of Christmas! Your children can join in the fun of learning, articulating their thoughts on what could have happened and why, creating hands-on crafts, and spending time away from screens every month with their very own subscription to IndianTies Mystery Letters!
Although this month’s adventure might sound like it was inspired by a Hallmark movie, it was actually inspired by one of our own Christmases in India!
A few years ago, our family was in India during Christmas. We were in the final stages of adopting our daughter, and we had opted to take her into foster custody while we waited on the final court order to be granted. It allowed us to be with her much sooner than if we had waited until all of the steps were completed, but it required us to stay in India for an unknown amount of time - and the timeframe was completely out of our hands! Weeks turned into months - suddenly the holidays were here. We had never dreamed that we would still be in India for Christmas, but we decided to enjoy it and make some memories with family and friends that we don’t normally get to see over the holidays. Our older children were 8 and 5 and still fondly remember the Christmas that we were “stuck” in India!
Over the time that the children and I were in India, my husband had to make several trips back and forth, since he needed to be at work in the US. He managed to get on a standby flight and make it back to India on Christmas Day! We had prepared the kids that since we were going to go home soon, we couldn’t do lots of big Christmas presents. All of the gifts had to fit into our suitcases. Thankfully we had the idea to get the kids little toy Advent calendars (my husband brought them along in his suitcase when he came for Thanksgiving). The calendars were fun because they got a (small) toy each day, and it also helped the kids count down, not only to Christmas, but also when Daddy would be back in India, and each day was a day closer to when we would get to go home, though we still didn’t know when that would be. The kids were excited to decorate a small Christmas tree at their grandmother’s house, where we were staying. She’d brought the tree back from the US several years prior and it really made it feel more like Christmas to have some familiar decorations around (last week’s blog focused on Christmas traditions in India, and we learned that most people decorate mango or banana trees as their Christmas Tree. We also had (dollar tree!) stockings for everyone. There was no fireplace to hang them on, but we lined them up on the sofa, and luckily Santa still seemed to be able find them - ha-ha!
This particular Christmas we did not make it up to a hill station, but other Christmases in India have been spent in the hill station, Kodaikanal, in Tamil Nadu. I don’t think it ever snows there, but the weather is noticeably cooler in the higher altitude. And poinsettias grow in the wild there! It is very beautiful.
Meanwhile, back in Hyderabad, it was a “chilly” 24°C - which is a balmy 76°F! To combat the “cold” my mother-in-law made sure the children were well bundled up when going out at night, complete with coats and earmuffs! Well there’s nothing that will get you in the Christmas spirit more than a parka - whether you need it or not! Lol!
It may have started a little rocky, much like Ravi and Desi’s Christmas, but today the kids still love talking about our Christmas in India. And as far as gifts - our daughter was THRILLED when she got a pack of printer paper and colored pencils. She loves to draw and she managed to use up most of the paper before we finally got to travel home near the end of January!
We learned the same lesson as Ravi and Devi, Christmas isn’t about all of the “stuff” it is more about who you spend it with and the memories you make together!
Wishing all of you a Merry Christmas full of memories and family!