What's Christmas got to do with romance?

“Romantic?” chorused most of them. “Christmas is a spiritual journey, dear chum.”


Suresh Pattali

Published: Thu 8 Dec 2022, 5:03 PM

Last updated: Thu 8 Dec 2022, 5:04 PM

“This festive season, make a pledge to love thyself.”

The sender of this succinct greeting had jumped the gun by the margin of a whole month, yet the cardinal message ensconced in a few innocuous words posed a thousand queries to my conscience.

The friend who sent it had spent a whole day shopping for Christmas ornaments and a whole night putting up the tree, in reuse for the past few years to ramp up the cause of sustainability. The friend — let me not go into the gender of the person as any reference to the opposite sex raises many an eyebrow among close family members, colleagues and friends to such an extent that they have reserved the sobriquet Casanova exclusively for me — isn’t a follower of Christian faith.

Let me invoke one of the principles of wokeism to refer to the friend as They. The money, time and effort that have gone into decorating their home this season are mind-blowing. The star, the wreath, tinsels, baubles, lights, gifts and other doobries handpicked from different shops speak loud not just about the class of the person but also the significance of the show.

“Looks fabulous, but isn’t it too early?” I asked.

“It’s all about me, so I don’t care if it’s early or late,” they retorted.

“Yeah, I read your call to love thyself. Aren’t you being selfish?”

“Have you read the Bible or at least the second great commandment of Jesus Christ in Mark 12:31? It says: Love thy neighbour as thyself.”

“True, we all have read it?”

“But have you loved thyself in the first place?”

The profoundness of their argument hit me like an Arctic blizzard. When was the last time I did something soul-filling for myself, apart from all the quotidian things I do from dawn to dusk? Have I loved myself before loving the hoi polloi? The ambiguous thought took me to places selling all that is Christmas, from Ace to Dragon Mart to five-dirham shops.

It took two nights to transform my dwelling to a happy-looking place where God could stay, and all truth-seekers could find peace. The positive vibes that my home radiated — from the balcony to the living room and the garden to the garage — stopped hearts.

“Wow! Yuletide is already here,” said one passerby.

“So is romance,” replied my friend in response to the photos and videos I had dispatched. “Isn’t it so romantic? Aren’t you feeling happy?” I transmitted her message to my contacts.

“Romantic?” chorused most of them. “Christmas is a spiritual journey, dear chum.”

I was in no mood for an argument. I was in the grip of a divine spell and there’s certainly something romantic about it. The pleasure I derived looking at the stunning cherry, the aesthetic string lights and the LOVE plaque longing for attention at the foot of the ornated tree transported me to a magical world. To Bethlehem. To the manger where Jesus was born. Every birth is the pinnacle of love and romance.

From time immemorial, humans have romanticised monumental deaths as well as everyone and everything that’s revolutionary. We have done it to Che Guevara. We have done it in the case of Leon Trotsky. We have romanticised Pablo Neruda and Ho Chi Minh and poets of the same ilk. Wasn’t Jesus a revolutionary, though not so much in the same band?

“But what the hell is the LOVE plaque doing there?” someone asked. As if Christmas has nothing to do with love!

“Why the decorations when there’s no one to see? None of us is visiting you this month?” Vava messaged. “Neither do you have friends to come and appreciate.”

My Christmas is my own emotional business. Never mind I was born into a different religion, love is the faith I believe in. Peace is the prayer I chant. Happiness is the salvation I long for.

As the newfangled ambience envelops my home, I lie in a manger squinting my tiny eyes and sucking my thumb. I am as naked as nature and as innocent as a prayer. My lips are as parched as the wasteland. I am waiting for a Mary to feed me and water me. I am waiting for the wise men to bring in frankincense and myrrh, if not gold.


More news from Lifestyle