20 January, 2022

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Fathers & Mothers Of Christmas

By Krishantha Prasad Cooray

Krishantha Cooray

Christmas has a lot of meanings. It is a day for reflection, penitence and reaffirmation of faith for devout Christians. It is also a moment of celebrating community. It is also a time of joy, goodwill, sharing and reunions. To me, it is all of these things. But looking back and especially reflecting on the holiday from a fair distance from familiarities, I realise that the one word I associate most with Christmas is ‘family.’

Christmas is about giving, sharing, loving and forgiving and basically making sacrifices. This I know. Indeed, all Christians know this, although we sometimes forget in the merry-making festival that it has become. Christmas, to me, as it is to all Christians, is about family, which too some of us too often forget. Christmas, to me, is about parents. I knew this as a child, and I know this as a parent. Those childhood Christmas memories are unforgettable. Perhaps my own children, when they are adults, may remember their childhood Christmases in the same way.

The true meaning of Christmas is something that I first learnt from my parents at a very young age. I remember them as the role models they have become, largely due to my memories of how we, my brothers and I, experienced Christmas bathed in the warmth of their giving, their loving and their sacrifice.

December was the happiest month for us. First of all because of the school holidays. Secondly, my mother’s birthday falls on the 23rd of December. Then came Christmas Eve, followed by Christmas. It was therefore a long celebration or rather different kinds of celebration over three whole days.

Of course there were the decorations that came before and lasted until New Year’s Day and a bit longer after that. We loved doing the crib and decorating the Christmas tree, at which my older brother excelled. I do my best along with my wife to replicate everything I’ve learnt about Christmas from my parents and maybe they’ll remember and cherish. For me or for some part of me, it is incomplete. It seem incomplete because I’m so far removed from my parents and brothers. Two Christmases have come and gone, but my arms aren’t long enough to embrace them and share the joy and warmth that’s sustained all of us all these years.

How can I explain such absences? I do not know. All I know is that my mother was a person who taught us the importance of friendship and loyalty. She always insisted that we must stand by a true and honest friend even if the whole world is against that person. It is from her that I learnt that whenever I am confused, I should try to consider things from the point of view of the poorest, the most vulnerable. She taught us that the more you give, the more you have for yourself. It was not that she lectured us. She lived and personified these values, these lessons. My friends would joke that she was poor at math and had got the equation wrong, but I know now that she was right. We give and we received in excess. My father shared different values. He was always very religious. It is from him that I learnt the importance of family values. For him family came first. Whereas my mother could be emotional and selfless, he was methodical, practical and extremely logical. Together they taught me almost everything I know about life, especially that in a moment of crisis, one must not expect that anyone other than family and your most loyal friends who will stand by you.

Another Christmas has come upon us. It is yet another moment to cherish the extraordinary love, affection and the sacrifices our parents have made to make us who we are today. It is a time to reflect on all the positive things our parents have done for us and thank them in abundance.

I wish I could say ‘happy birthday’ to Amma in person, and that I could hug her as though I do not wish to break away. I wish I could say ‘Merry Christmas’ to Thaththa in person. I cannot. Knowing them, they will understand. They will not take my absence as any indication of love and appreciation having eroded over the years. They understand. They are giving. They are forgiving. When I say that I’ve never seen love purer than that which from their eyes cascade, they will understand. So too will all parents, Christian or otherwise, at Christmas and other times too. Christmas is something we should hold in our hearts, they taught me. It is a moment to reaffirm the timeless truth that there’s virtue in being grateful for what we have and to bear with dignity that which we do not, including absences.

There’s a part of me that grieves and a part that is strong. These are attributes that my parents have, in their unassuming and tender ways, grafted onto my heart and onto my soul. When I say ‘happy birthday Amma,’ she will not notice absence, but the truth of the sentiments expressed. When I say ‘Merry Christmas Thaththa,’ he too will embrace the sentiments in much the same way. And in this way, they will make even this distant Christmas as rich and warm as any that I have spent at home, in their company and in the circle of their love.

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Latest comments

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    In the old days of the University of Ceylon, we celebrated all religious holidays.
    There was complete friendliness and mutual respect, English was the official language.
    Then, SWRD returned from Oxford and made Sinhalese the official language.
    Thus began the racial/religious animosity.
    Now, Ceylon/Sri Lanka has sunk into an abyss.

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    For millions of SL citizens, this Christmas is not bringing any joy but I am sure it’s Christmas everyday for the Rajapakses & all their cronies. As for a happy New Year, its wishful thinking.

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    “It is also a moment of celebrating community. It is also a time of joy, goodwill, sharing and reunions…,”
    Absolutely, the end of year, exchanging presents, white Christmas ( in Western Europe) and much more are the reasons for celebration.

    BUT , “Christmas has a lot of meanings. It is a day for reflection, penitence and reaffirmation of faith for devout Christians is questionable because the above don’t need to be on the specific day. And the BD of Jesus was first celebrated in 339 after Jesus in Rome, not in Palestine ( or nowadays occupied territory. Neither Jesus nor Good News he preached knows birthday. It’s not Jews practice.
    However, I hole heartedly wish you all MERY CHISTMAS AND HAPPY 2022!!!

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    Mr. y Krishantha Prasad Cooray ,Thank you for a very nice article.Thank you Colombo Telegraph for publishing same.
    Today the 23rd of December is Prasad’s mother’s birthday.
    I wish her many, many more happy returns of the day. Also , I wish his parents a very happy and long life together, with opportunities for them to meet their children and grandchildren.
    So, happy to read about your desire to pass on the same joys and values to your children .
    I heard a statement ‘the best gift a father can give his children is to love their mother’.
    I am sure you do.
    Go ahead and spoil the mother of you children, by embracing her, telling her you love her and kissing her on both cheeks .Please do so, every morning thereafter.

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    You wrote:
    “December was the happiest month for us. First of all because of the school holidays. Secondly, my mother’s birthday falls on the 23rd of December. Then came Christmas Eve, followed by Christmas. It was therefore a long celebration or rather different kinds of celebration over three whole days.”

    25th of December is thought of as the day, when the creator entered this world, as a baby.
    There was no room in the Inn for Him to be born.The baby was born in a stable . The baby, however could not do anything for mankind.
    He had to grow up, which he did and commenced tp preach and to teach.
    He taught the people of his day that He come to save them from hell by dying in their place.
    He taught them that they should love their enemies and do good to them that hate them.
    He told them that He would be put to death by the religious leaders of His day but that He would rise again on the 3rd day, which He did.
    Today, if you can find room for Him in your life, you too could go to be with Him when you die.
    He will be born in your life.

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