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Published: December 27th 2017
Do they celebrate Christmas in India? Well, in the Child Haven homes, all festivals are celebrated, whether they are religious or not. Already on Christmas Eve, we could feel some real excitement in the air, and in the morning, everyone was up even earlier than usual, despite the "cold" temperature (12 C).
We had breakfast as usual but the dining hall was nicely decorated and the children all came to wish me a "Happy Merry Christmas". After breakfast, the children went to their rooms and they came out dressed in their loveliest clothes, kept for very special occasions. They looked beautiful, and very, very proud.
I can't remember if I mentioned it, but I arrived here with only 2 sets of Indian dresses and pants, and it didn't take long that the staff here started giving me clothes to wear. But for a festival, even these clothes were not good enough... Luckily I had one dress that they had given me that was fancier, black with white and silver embroidery, so I put that one on, even if the sleeves are very short. But what pants to wear with it? I first put pink leggings (that they had also given me).
Apparently, it was a bad choice. So I tried my white baggy pants. Nope. They tried to find white leggings for me: too short, showing one centimeter of my ankles... So back to the initial pink leggings, but with a borrowed pink dupatta (scarf that we always wear with anything and that I still struggle with). Finally, that was deemed acceptable. They must be thinking this foreigner really has no clue about fashion! And they are absolutely right!!!
Once everybody was ready, we all went to the hall and had 3 huge cakes, music and dance! Then I pulled my big camera out and Oh my Good! Imagine 80 people (including staff) wanting their picture taken all at once and as many times as possible. It was exhausting but to see all these smiles made it all so worth it. And it didn't cost anything. We had a special lunch that was truly delicious.
Then I was invited by a young Indian couple who are donators to Child Haven to visit them in their home in Gandhinagar. They come to visit the kids regularly and bring clothes and fruits for them. They are really nice people and were so excited
to invite me to their house for the night. I was actually sincerely sad to leave the kids and staff but was also excited and grateful for the invitation.
It was quite an experience, especially when I got to try a sari for the first time, and a REALLY beautiful one. Then, while I was still wearing the sari, we went to a Tibetan market and a Bollywood movie. I got a lot of attention that night!!!
I felt very privileged to be invited to the home of local people and to get more insight about their daily life. They admitted they were shy about inviting a foreigner, and I felt the same: I didn't want to do anything wrong. But we put our differences aside and enjoyed learning from each other.
However, the experience was also unsettling as the contrast between the material simplicity of life at Child Haven and the different reality of the outside world especially around Christmas time was a bit of a shock.
I am now back in the home and happy to be here. Funny to see how my life here became quite comfortable. The kids are back in school. I have no idea
With the boys, on Christmas day
Wearing my special Christmas dress...
if and how we will celebrate the New Year but one thing for sure, January will be interesting with at least 2 major festivals: the Kite Festival and Republic Day.
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