A Christmas like never before | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 25, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 04:03 AM, December 25, 2020

A Christmas like never before

For me, the winter winds always bring with them the essence of festivity, as if to say, “Merry ho merry ho, Christmas is here!” Born and brought up in a big family, I have eight cousins who have been inseparable for years. Even though most of us have immigrated, all my siblings pack their bags and hop on planes just to be home to celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ every year. However, the coronavirus pandemic has left us with no option, other than to celebrate Christmas from a distance.

About two weeks ago, while we were discussing our Christmas plans and expressing our sorrows for not being able to meet each other in person this year, my cousin Ritika came up with a unique solution. "I know we all cook our special desserts and dishes and decorate the Christmas table for the feast, but we have to adapt to the new normal this year. Keeping that in mind, why don't we all go digital?" she proposed. "Let us cook our favourite dishes and set a time to be on a group video call, where we can see each other's smiles and celebrate together, like we always do."

Speaking of our Christmas traditions, December 25 is incomplete without a cake. My sister Ritika loves to bake. We all look forward to her Christmas special fruit and nut butter cake. Every year, she goes out to buy raisins, pistachios, cashews, mubarras, cherries and her most important and secret ingredients, brown sugar and jaggery. As soon as she starts tossing the baking trays into the oven, the smell of caramelised jaggery and butter swirls around the whole house, capturing the attention of all who cross the kitchen door. We will miss that smell this year, but when she bakes and eats it from her home in Barishal over a video call with all of us on the evening of Christmas, we will talk about our memories of her cake in previous years.

Decorated cookies are a special addition to our dinner table on Christmas Eve. My cousin Neil, who is an art student, generally cuts the cookie dough in shapes of trees, elves, reindeers, Santa socks, and most importantly, snowflakes. We have his cookie cutters in our kitchen cabinet, but this year, he is in Virginia, DC. He visited Walmart three times and collected the essentials, starting from dough batter, chocolate chips and pecans to peanut butter and dried cookie frostings. During our video call, he will get to enjoy his freshly baked and beautifully decorated Christmas cookies from his balcony.

Jams are to Christmas what pumpkins are to Halloween. My sister Sharley collects oranges and guavas at the beginning of December to prepare her marmalades, which are widely adored by everyone in the family. While the orange marmalade is made from orange juice and orange jest, the guava jams require a lot of time and energy, as each seed should be removed from the fruit. The marmalade goes well with freshly baked casseroles from the famous Olympia Bakery, and some salted butter to cut through the sweetness and bitterness of the orange zest.

While the sweet treats are delightful, our main dish for the Christmas feast is the turkey. Weighing at least 6 pounds, the Christmas turkey is always prepared by our eldest sibling, Zenith. She usually travels all the way to Shahdullahpur in Savar for it. She cleans it with its skin on, and marinates it overnight with ginger, garlic cloves, paprika, black pepper, some salt, oregano and a good spoonful of vinaigrette. This year, she drove all the way to the farmlands of California to get one. We will watch her prepare the turkey from miles away this year.

My youngest cousin, Kyrie, will grace the video call with her Christmas tree decorations and beautifully packaged gifts from Doha, which she plans to deliver to us next year. 

As for me, I really like fruits. Every year, I am assigned to make a fluffy yet rich fruit custard for my family, with plenty of papaya, apple, grape and banana slices.

This year showed me that distance truly makes the heart grow fonder, and it cannot keep us from sharing our joy with our loved ones. Merry Christmas!


The author is trainee reporter, Arts & Entertainment, The Daily Star. Write to her at shoptorshisamaddar@gmail.com.


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