So here’s the thing: I don’t really celebrate Christmas. Well, not for the traditional reason of the birth of Jesus Christ, at least. As a Sikh, Christmas in my home is a little different. However, living in the UK, it’s difficult to ignore Christmas. I was taught about it in school; I had Christmas art projects and secret Santa gift exchanges. Not to mention shops begin putting up Christmas-themed displays in late October, which include a wide variety of lights, evergreen trees, ornaments, and Nativity scenes depicting the birth of Jesus. Let’s not forget the Christmas songs that are played constantly everywhere. It’s hard not to grow up loving Christmas, and to be completely honest; you’re lying if you don’t get a little bit excited for the festive season.
Due to COVID-19, I’ve celebrated the past couple of Christmases with just my immediate family. Although I’ve made that sound unfortunate, I can promise you, I enjoy their company! On Christmas morning, our house is filled with a unique mix of Christmas, English, and Punjabi music, which makes for a very interesting sound, but hey, it’s Christmas, and no one is in the mood to complain or even question the song choices made by my parents. I’m also not complaining, thanks to the Punjabi snacks and food my mum decides to try to stuff me with. Fresh samosas are not something you neglect.
I love to cook, and for the past two years, I have taken on the challenge of cooking Christmas dinner for my family. One small problem, however. I eat anything and everything; my sister claims to be a pescetarian who only apparently eats chicken if it’s from KFC or Nando’s (honestly, I don’t understand it either!), and both my parents are entirely pescatarian, with my dad dabbling in veganism. Essentially, I have to cook veggie alternatives for my family, plus all of the meat I individually wish to devour. It’s a tall order and not a fun one to plan when you have one small oven and four massive stomachs to feed. I start off optimistic that everything will run smoothly, but I slowly become more agitated as the hours pass. The solution to getting through this full day of cooking from 8 am to 4 pm is simple; a few cold beers and music that drowns out the Christmas songs that, yes, by Christmas day, I have gotten fed up with hearing! Headphones in, oven gloves on, and I am in the zone.
I just wait for my mum to ask the same question she asks every year; “Should we add some chili to the food?” she asks, knowing full well I am obviously not going to smother some perfectly good stuffing in hot sauce. My mum cannot bring herself to eat something if it isn’t blisteringly hot. The funny part is how when we all eventually sit at the table ready to eat, my mum is clenching onto her bottle of trusty chili sauce, prepared to overload her roast potatoes with fiery goodness. My sister and I just look at her in sheer disbelief. It’s these little things that make the holiday ours.
Christmas in my house feels like a TV show. Every member of the family has their own little storyline on the day. I am cooking all day, my sister refuses to engage with us and sits on Facetime with her friends in her bedroom, and my mum constantly dips in and out of the kitchen to check up on my cooking, because she struggles just to sit and do nothing. Relaxing terrifies her! Finally, my dad enjoys some TV lying across the sofa, combining maximum comfort with achieving the best view of the TV.
All families have the weird little iconoclastic things they do that define them. Well, this is my family—and I’m guessing others can relate to this madness with quirks of their own. Living as part of two cultures has allowed us to find our own niche identity between them, combining the best of Punjabi and English traditions.
While my family and I enjoy the festive season, as Sikhs, we are reminded of critical events occurring during the same time. Christmas is celebrated about the same time of year as the birth of Guru Gobind Singh Ji and the martyrdom of his four sons. Therefore, while my family and I laugh together, we also take time to remind ourselves of their incredible sacrifice. I suppose December for Sikhs is a period of “thanksgiving.” As important as it is to enjoy the fun side of this festive season, eating, laughing, and enjoying each other’s company, its equally a time of remembrance and acknowledgment of our forefathers’ courageous acts, teaching those around us about the significance of coming together, praying in their name, and also praying for the happiness of all of mankind.
For me, having Christmas as a time when I can enjoy myself while showing gratitude and respect for my culture and history is the best of both worlds. It’s a topsy-turvy time of year, but I personally wouldn’t have it any other way.