December is always special. These are the days when early morning sleep becomes all the more precious. Quilts are pulled closer, and hot water bottles and room heaters become indispensable. After the Herculean task of waking up, a steaming cup of caffeine offers perfect consolation. The feeble sun and the nip in the air translate into several layers of clothes, thick sweaters and bulky jackets. On certain days, when the sun gains strength, we sit in our gardens shelling peanuts and oranges, while relishing the soothing, balmy warmth. The lazy winter afternoons extend into crisp evenings. Piping hot, homemade soup provides for a perfect antidote to freezing limbs and shivering souls.

These are also the days, when I get particularly nostalgic about my school. The dreary December days would be filled with colour, joy and merriment, as we would brace ourselves for Christmas celebrations. Scouting for the carols recitation choir used to be a big affair. Several hours everyday would be painfully put in to memorise each and every word of the carol. The entire school used to be decorated with beautiful wreaths, string lights and bells. A customary Christmas tree would be put up, complete with all the frills. Shiny balls, silver reindeers, bright ribbons and huge stockings would adorn it.

On the D-day, we’d arrive in school with queer looking cotton balls stitched onto our red school sweaters, and enjoy our share of the famed ‘white Christmas’ as is rejoiced all over the world! Choirs from other city schools would then join us for the three-hour long affair of festive celebrations. Once in a year, our all-girls Convent school would turn into the most sought after address in town. Or so, we innocently thought. We girls would squeal in sheer delight as students from a particular all-Boys missionary school poured in.

Mouthwatering cake and juice would follow after a stiff competition of carol singing. This was the one day when teachers and nuns would drop their facade of sternness and join us in fun and games. Ten long years of this Christmas ritual, but it never got stale. In fact, I remember it with a warm smile, even today-years after finishing school. Had it not been for school, I would have never known the true essence of Christmas. While playing these games and singing the carols, I had imbibed the festival’s spirit, unknowingly.

It was about sprucing up home, schools, places of work together. It was about exchanging presents, recognising the work of the people who toil day and night– cleaners, gardeners, doormen etc– but remain in the background all through. It was about feasting with family, cherishing the quality time you spent with loved ones, enjoying the bounties the Lord has bestowed upon us. Most importantly, Christmas spirit was about thanking the Almighty, because even in dark, cold days He provides us with more than enough to tide over tough times. The shimmering Christmas lights and festivities are an indicator of all the sunny days that lie ahead.
So this December, when I sit cuddled with my daughter in a cosy blanket, and teach her ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’, I know my Christmas spirit is well intact. Thank you dear school, for filing in my Decembers with Christmas magic. I will always carry it with me, no matter where I am.