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!

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40 years ago we were fortunate enough to become close friends with an Indian family that had recently arrived in the US. It is one of those friendships that has lasted through the years. As I read Shubha Bala's precious essay, I thought of our dear friends who have always included me in their life even though we live far away from one another. I just got a letter addressed to 'Auntie' and can't begin to expalin how special this makes me feel. We have celebrated national holidays as well as life's ups and downs. My life is much richer as an extended family member of my Indian friends. Among the many things they have taught me through the years is absolute acceptance.