Sometimes it takes being on the outside looking in to the find humor in your typical Hindu Christmas. Recently, I attended a friend’s family dinner in suburban Minneapolis. This was the big sort of “cousins, aunts, uncles” family dinner that closely resembles my family’s gatherings. Three generations of Hindu-Americans passed around a Secret Santa basket that made me remember my own family traditions growing up in Canada.
Christmas is always a huge deal for us. It revolves around Christmas trees, gift exchanges, “Santa,” and Christmas crafts. Food, multi-ethnic potlucks, are always eaten in the Indian style. First the kids grab food and eat wherever there’s room — table, floor, couch — until we eventually clear out and make space for the adults. We even used to sing carols. My parents, aunts, and uncles with their Indian accents would follow along with lyrics printed out. Songs ranged from the more secular “Jingle Bells” to my favorite, “We Three Kings.”
Watching my friend’s family argue over the rules of Secret Santa made me aware how many Hindus are pretty loosey-goosey about adopting cultural traditions, as long as they’re fun. Even though half my Indian friends growing up didn’t celebrate Christmas, there was never a judgment or debate about it. Other Hindus never called me a traitor or a sell-out or even, frankly, questioned my festivities.
So it’s probably completely natural that Nickelodeon created a Bhangra Jingle Bells, and a few years ago Boymongoose, an Indian musician, created a comedy album titled Christmas in Asia Minor. Maybe, from the outside, our family really is that funny!