Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Late December Holidays!

In keeping with the fervently ecumenical theme of our family/marriage/year in India/life in general, I am happy to report that this week has included both a raucous Hanukkah party at our house and a lovely Christmas celebration with our friends at the (Jesus) Ashram. Members of at least 4 faiths were included in all celebrations, maybe more...

First, on the 22nd we hosted a huge Hanukkah blowout. Some of our Christian friends expressed an interest in learning about Hanukkah so we pulled out all the stops and tried to give them a taste of what Hanukkah is to us. Namely, LATKES. Major credit to Chris and Samser for traversing Varanasi in search of sufficient quantities of "old" potatoes, apples, peanuts and photocopiers. With Manju and Sunita's help we made a six-tuple (what is the word for six-times?) recipe of Mee-ma's famous latkes and ate them with homemade applesauce and sour cream. Thanks to Chris's encouragement and my very patient friend Amy we also had jelly doughnuts. But the highlight of the evening was the first (and likely last) staging of the Hanukkah story by the Varanasi Puppet Theater, led by yours truly and staffed by Caitlin, Ben, and 3 of our kid-friends, Nora-Grace, Taran and Miriam. Taran introduced us to Judah Maccabees's long lost brother, Sword Maccabees, and Nora-Grace imbued good old Mattathias with such vigorous faith in the One God as Varanasi has never seen and will likely never see again. Best of all I think was Ben's portrayal of Judah Maccabees, in the form of a puppet made out of a hammer. Nora-Grace's dad has pictures which hopefully will be up here soon. After the puppet show there was a brutal dreidel match (with homemade dreidels) which culminated in Miriam, 4 years old and sweet as the day is long, routing 5 monks from Sarnath. Being Ladahki's they laughed like crazy the whole time.

Then today we joined our friends Leaf and Brendan (Taran's parents) at their annual Christmas feast. They provide a huge (and free!) vegetarian feast for anyone who wants to come. There was lots of singing, including a German rendition of Silent Night and a round of "Gloria in excelcis Deo" (what is that song?) that raised the rafters. I met a handful of interesting and articulate travellers and had good conversations while Chris led all the kids on a major tree-climbing expedition. It seems like Christians often get a bum-rap back home - written off as hypocrites or worse thanks to the behavior of some rather rotten public figures. Its been refreshing to get to know Christian people here who are humbly trying to live as their faith teaches them, following the example that they believe Jesus has set for them. Almost all of our ex-pat friends are here because of some sort of spiritual calling to come and be of service to people who so badly need their help. No preaching or missionary work, just huge and largely anonymous efforts to make at least a small difference in people's lives. Inspiring, and humbling to see in action.

So my "Happy Big Day" as many Varanasi-ites call it, is coming to an end with a marathon internet session and the promise of tons of Toblerone chocolate at home later. ( Thanks Hanukkah Harry!)

Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas and best wishes for every other holiday you may be celebrating. You all are in my thoughts as we celebrate so far away! Find a fellow S.L.N.C blog reader and give them a big holiday hug from the Haskett clan for us.


Grandpa George said...

And Happy Holidays to you all from Greensboro. It is 60 in the sun and a beautiful day. Rick and Kay and all the kids will be here at 3 or so.

Grampy said...

Happy Holidays to everyone, from very snowy Wisconsin. We had our Xmas dinner this afternoon, thanks to frozen food left from T'giving: roast turkey breast, Daniel's famous garlic mashed potatoes, stuffing. We used the silver, china [the heirloom clover dishes], and crystal--special. That was to compensate for its being just the two of us. Latkes will come maybe on Dec. 27 (thank goodness Hanukkah lasts 8 days!)
We are listening to The Three Tenors as I type; now it's "Silent Night" in several different languages....wonderful.

Grandma Ginny's friend Deirdre said...

I have so enjoyed reading your accounts over the past weeks since Grandma Ginny shared your blog. What incredible and life changing experiences you are having, priceless the Visa commerical says. They have certainly given me a picture of life in India. I was going to ask how you celebrated Hannukah and low and behold you answered my question before I could ask. One can never go wrong with Latkes and Jelly donuts. The Christmas carol with "Gloria in excelsis deo" is from is "Angels we have heard on high" which I believe was orginally a French carol. I remember it as in the 4th grade I was so impressed with the carol we learned in chorus that I asked my Hebrew School teacher if we could translate it to hebrew to sing in our Choir. The answer was a tactiful no ! I look forward to hearing all about Grandma Ginny and Susannah's adventures in India. Have a healthy,happy and peaceful new year

Deirdre Spelman