For a solid month and a half, a cookie has been sporadically showing up outside one of the windows of Alice Lloyd Residence Hall with milk always dripping from it (or frozen around it — depending on the weather). On my way to Mojo, I would spot a new one every other day at the same spot, on the same windowsill, and stare at it in puzzlement. I thought it was just a joke until I mentioned it to a friend. “Those are for Santa, silly. It’s sort of a North American tradition. I wonder if it’s still edible.”
The cookie obviously did not seem appetizing, but at that moment numerous scenes from movies and TV shows conjured up in my mind — kids leaving milk and cookies for Santa on the table beside the fireplace, which was decorated with Christmas socks, in return for gifts.
I’ve always felt that the spirit of Christmas is one that transcends all geographical, cultural and even religious barriers. It brings around the festive warmth we all crave. There are various other holidays, such as Diwali, Eid, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Chinese New Year, that celebrate the same spirit of spending time with family and friends, being thankful for what you have received in life and feeling loved. However, Christmas seems to be one of those holidays, akin to New Year’s Day and the “Last Day of Exams,” which lifts up everyone’s spirit.
The celebration of an occasion with enormous cultural significance and the wonderful festivities that it entails has several factors that contribute to this widespread understanding of this holiday. Christmas stems from the most widely practiced religion in the world, and hence has been an integral part of culture, mass media and social media across the globe. However, a recent picture posted on the Australian Embassy’s Facebook page made me realize that it was the North American concept of Christmas that was widely understood. The picture is of the Christmas decorations put up outside the Australian Embassy in Washington, D.C, showing a guy surfing in red swimming shorts, being pulled by five kangaroos. A summer Christmas is so hard to imagine.
Being an international student from a country where Christianity is the third-largest religion, people always wish each a “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year” before going off on winter break. But all Christmas and New Years cards that I made as a kid would be decorated with fake cotton snow. India is in the northern hemisphere, so it’s still cold in December, but only three or four states out of the 28 experience snowfall. My home, New Delhi, is not one of those places. It’s funny how my mind automatically conjured up images of a white Christmas.
Media exposure surrounding Christmas — both through mass and social media — makes it possible to identify certain emotions and materials with a North American Christmas. I associated the simple image of milk and cookies with Christmas socks, a fireplace, wreaths and snow. Living in New Delhi, I had barely realized how frequently I was exposed to the various aspects of the American culture in a single day — keeping up with my favorite HBO TV show, watching a Hollywood movie or even just browsing through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or other social media. The North American imagery of Christmas might, in a lot of places now, be the idea of Christmas itself.
It also helps that Christmas is right around the time of the end of the year. It’s a time of celebration all around the world; everyone’s getting ready to welcome the New Year. The timing provides inclusivity otherwise hard to find during various other big holidays. The Gregorian calendar is the most commonly used around the globe, and so it gives everyone a reason to celebrate, regardless of where they’re from or what religion they do or don’t practice.
And honestly, Christmas festivities are beautiful, who wouldn’t want to take part in holiday merriments?
Being in college leads to a fresh gratitude for holidays involving family, and I personally experienced that over Diwali (which I celebrated blasting Bollywood music in my room, sorry neighbors). Our campus is living evidence of this transcendence of the Yule spirit. Christmas celebrations are in full swing. Ugly sweater parties are beautiful, Christmas music and Santa hats are everywhere, and the even the dining halls are decorated (and serving great food, hurray.)
Thank you to whoever put out those cookies — I have a newfound appreciation for the love of holidays on campus.
Nivedita Karki is an LSA freshman.