In my city around this time of the year things start turning greener. It’s the time of the year when the trees from the central region, where the climes are cooler and they grow in abundance. It’s an integral aspect of our social calender regardless of your religion or race. Almost every shop in all the major cities and hotels are restaurants will be decorated with a trees and streamers. It’s hard to find a place that is not decked up in the festive spirit.
I admit that being in a tropical country it’s hard to find the really bushy and lush trees you get in the west but we have pretty nice ones albeit a little Asian besides the best part is the smell.
From the time I was a kid this was something I and thousands like me looked forward to, when the trees come. No one puts an advertisement anywhere and its not even done by some major company. Local business folk go to the central region and bring the trees down to a popular park and everyone in Colombo knows that a couple of weeks before Christmas the trees would be there and by god we will be there too! Christians and other’s like me go with their families, haggle with the vendors and pick out the best trees for their homes.
I always remember wanting to buy the biggest one, and they can be quite expensive. ..my mother would grumble ” we are not even Christians..” but in the end they would give in we’ll buy a nice big tree”. My brother and i would have the widest grins and after we have strapped on the tree to the hood of the car we would stop by the roadside sellers and buy tinsel and other decorations to dress it up. Angels being favourites. In days when people opt for plastic trees for convenience and economy the charm and spirit of the real thing is still hard to beat.
One thing i have learnt from some of my Christian relatives and friends is that they keep all their decorations and some of them are very special sentimental pieces, handed down for generations. Exquisite glass globes and intricate stars and the most delicate looking cupids and angels. I too keep all my decorations neatly packed in cardboard boxes and each year i add something special to my collection.
One of the wonderful things about this festival is that it brings everyone together, regardless of their religion. I have Hindu friends you decorate the trees with little Indian ornaments that they create from paper mache in all the vibrant hues you can imagine and Muslim friends who make the most delicious sweets and distribute to everyone and there was one who decorated her whole house last year with green and white tinsel.
Another touching little tradition we have, if you grew up in Colombo, is flocking to the Hilton lobby. Because during Christmas they put out the best decorations and a giant Christmas tree. It’s a must for us to go and see. When we meet friends we would invariably say ” Did you see the Hilton tree? Is it as good as last time?”
We want to see what colour theme they have used as each year they do something special and as a treat to all those who come to see the tree Hilton puts up their traditional Ginger Bread House. This marvelous little corner houses all the sinfully delightful things you can imagine. Cakes, tarts, cookies, chocolates, marzipan treats… the selection is endless. It’s ways such a joy to see this and it makes you feel connected somehow. You remember how many years you have been coming there ( and how old you are ) and you invariably meet many people you only see around this time of the year… old acquaintances, friends and just familiar faces… who like you have come to see the tree and buy the treats. Everyone gathers there at least once, Christians, Buddhists, Hindu’s,Muslims and sits among family and friends enjoying the goodies with a nice cup of tea, under the glow of the magnificent Christmas tree.