Christmas gifts; then and now!

By: T S Haokip 12-Dec-2019 The Sangai Express
I still remember the Christmas gifts which my parents bought me, like every parents whether rich or poor presented their children during those times. Generally, the gift would always be a new dress known as “Kumhe/Kumeii von”. Every kid of the 80s and 90s will have interesting tales to tell on their “kumei/Kumhei von”. There was one common rule regarding it for all; No one was supposed to wear the gifted dress before 25th of December. The morning of Christmas day would be filled with happy faces, all with a How-is-my-new-dress looks.
The year was 1995. My father was invited to celebrate Christmas in Molvailup Village, Chassad Area, where he’d served his first pastoral ministry as Gambih Pastor from 1979 to 1989. I was one in a family of seven children. My mother and the seven of us were to celebrate Christmas without my father for the first time. Imagine how much headache my mother must have gone through to make us all happy on an occasion where everyone sings in chorus, ‘Joy to the world’. ‘Everyone is supposed to be happy on Christmas day, except Herod and the likes’ was a common saying which the preachers and the people alike abided by it. Our village had a weekly bazaar on Wednesday and it was usually on the last Wednesday before Christmas that our ‘kumei vons’ would be bought. The shoes I wanted costed Rs 250/- and I was earnestly persuaded by my mother to go for a cheaper one and get myself a warm sweater too. But I was hell-bent on it and told my mother that I would be contented with just the shoes. I don’t remember what dresses my other siblings bought but I kept staring at my shoes for days. The joy of having bought my favourite shoes made me feel on top of the world. Finally, I could not resist the temptation and secretly wore my shoes and went out to play football with them. I was so happy with the new shoes that I must have played hours kicking not just football but stones and everything with it. Suddenly, I noticed a few cracks in my shoe. I must have stepped on some sharp objects. I was scared as hell. Frightened, I kept my shoes back in the box. On Christmas Day, all my siblings and friends wore their ‘Kumei Von’ but I was scared to wear my shoes for fear of being scolded as my shoe was visibly torn. However, to my surprise, my mother came to me and said, ‘ you need not worry. We will ask the cobbler to mend it next week’. I celebrated Christmas that year with no new dresses. Till today, I cannot forget the memories of my Christmas with Torn shoes; it has happiness, regret, and embarrassment, etc. ‘Kumei von’ meant anything and everything then. It was an important parameter to judge how good the festival was.
Twenty-four years later, I’d observed that the concept of ‘Kumei von’ has substantially withered away. Today’s kids are fortunate to have dresses bought for them not only on special occasions but as and when required. New Dresses on Christmas Day meant no special feelings as was experienced by us, parents like me. It is never my intention though to conclude that ‘Kumei von’ was a good way of celebrating Christmas. It is just an illustration of how, during our childhood, simple things like ‘ New Dresses’ excited us to no measures and how many things are taken for granted now. More so, it is just a presentation of how things have changed over the years.
Christmas is a festival of love, peace, and joy. I don’t find it wise for me or for that matter anyone to prescribe the ways as to how people should be happy. There will be people who derive happiness by wearing new clothes; by singing; by helping others; by talking and listening to the Gospel; by dancing, etc. The shepherds were not the most fortunate people but they were one of the happiest when Christ was born. Being happy for no other reason, but the birth of a saviour is the most precious gift, one could receive or give. Another thing which has stood the test of time in its reverence and relevance is “the gift of quality time spent together with loved ones” on Christmas Day. It is one gift which has been highly valued in the past, so much so, people traveled hundreds of miles just to be with their loved ones on Christmas Day. Considering the upward mobility of people in today’s generation and its consequential compulsion of having to stay far away from home for work or education, spending ‘time with loved ones’ will remain a priceless gift for people celebrating Christmas many years from now. Let us then celebrate Christmas 2019 with those gifts, ‘of being with our loved ones’ and to be happy without the ‘whys and wherefores’ like those shepherds on that silent night, that holy night. Merry Christmas wishes to all.

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