Interestingly, Mother Mary was more important to me than Santa when I was growing up, except maybe on X-mas greeting cards that were sold in school, where Santa’s red apparel made those cards so irresistible. My parents never told us stories about how Santa would leave us gifts in red stockings. They didn’t believe in that story and didn’t want us to either. I always knew Santa didn’t exist; he was just a fictitious character for me.
But that’s not only why Mary was more important. The Christians in the school got to act in the Nativity play which meant that students like me were not going to be part of it. I remember longing to be Mary because she got to look so ethereal in a white flowing robe and a crown on her head. I was once asked to audition for the role as well, but disappointingly, was not selected because I didn’t have light-coloured eyes and looked too confident to be Mary! So I was always one of hundreds of spectators wanting to hold baby Christ in her arms.
When I was studying English Literature during my under-grad days, Christmas became important because it was linked to the beginnings of theatre in Europe. Understanding X-mas festivities became imperative to understanding English theatre. There was still no Santa in it, just huge dollops of Mystery and Morality Plays.
Now, Christmas is different. We don’t sing carols, we don’t cut out silver and golden bells, but I still do up a real Christmas tree. I gorge on plum cakes and attend sundry Christmas parties. And I wish, like never before, that Santa would leave me a gift. Or maybe, somebody would pretend to be Santa for me and leave me a gift! It’s not happened once in my life, but isn’t Hope the spirit of Christmas?!