December is an exciting month — long holidays, the not-too-biting chill, and the end of another gruelling year with tonnes of lessons learnt.
Having grown up being exposed to western television channels, I always expected Dhaka to transform itself to welcome Christmas. I felt that there was none of that, at least for me, living for the most part of my life in Mohammadpur, and this added to my misery of not having a snowy Christmas!
As I grew up and made friends and learnt about urban geography, rituals and traditions of Bangladesh, I came to accept this absence, albeit with a heavy heart.
Fast forward a couple of years, I realised Christmas celebrations in Dhaka were region specific. The Christian community in Dhaka usually lives in various pockets and these neighbourhoods indeed light up, giving you the Christmas feel.
Although almost all these are novelties in the celebration of a Bengali Christmas, the merriment and the pleasures of a blessed holiday are now popularly observed with colours — red, white, blue, gold, green and silver.
Inspired by the evergreen trees, green is a colour one can easily relate to Christmas. While many prefer not to use natural greens, now opting for artificial ones, the hue is a symbol of the vitality in life.
The colour green is also dominant owing to the use of the evergreen mistletoe, rosemary, and ivy to decorate houses, coming from the idea that these ward off evil and bless the house.
The colour red is significant because it is associated, not only with the 'paradise apples,' but also with Holly berries whose red colour symbolises Jesus's blood when he was crucified.
And how can we ever forget Santa!
Apart from the reds and greens, white is associated with purity and peace in the western world, and was thus incorporated into Christianity, which flourished in the region. White is also the colour of the mistletoe berries, the plant used as a sign of love and friendship, despite being quite poisonous to human beings!
The colour blue was a late introduction to western traditions and the high price it realised meant that it could only be used for the adornment of the holiest and most sacred symbols of Christianity — the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus.
GOLD AND SILVER
Traditionally, gold and silver embody the colours of the gifts brought to Jesus by the wise men; the silver being a representation of the star that guided these men. Gold also represents the colour of the sun and fire, each of which bring light and warmth in the dark and cold of winter.
All these colours embody the essence of Christmas, reminding people of the cosy days and the spirit of joy.
Photo: Shahrear Kabir Heemel