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Saturday July 2, 2022

White Christmas

White Christmas

Virginia Diary, 2009

‘I’m wishing on a star 
I’m trying to believe
Even though it’s far
He will find me Christmas Eve’

Lyrics from the movie, The Polar Express

The smell of the green Balsam pine is citrus, almost minty. The thick, short tree sheds needles all through the day, throughout the week, till a green round shadow is cast around the tree-holder. It stands tall and proud at the corner of the house, towering over the people of the house. The townhouse floors are carpeted here. They call it, ‘wall to wall carpet’. Milky white and soft, these retain footmarks long after one has left the room. The green dried needles fall quietly all through the day and a sharp, citrus smell gathers around the fireplace, which waits quietly for the evening to settle down before it is time to light the fire. It is cold in Virginia during this time of the year, but it hardly snows. 

Christmas has three colors but many smells. The aroma of honey almond cookies, the spice cake, and the fragrance of the cinnamon-scented candles float from one room to the other. Oven is on and so is the spirit. Outside, the temperature dips to minus, the trees, now bare and crooked, shiver in the dry cold draft and the sky turns blue and grey, but it hardly snows in Christmas at Virginia.

‘We can go out for dinner. Can we not?’

It was Christmas eve, and the question was asked two decades back. I was new to Virginia. I had just stepped in. So was my marriage. Coming from a tropical country, I waited for snow. 

The illuminated Christmas Tree. Image courtesy: Pexels.

‘It is Christmas!’, he answered with a knowing smile. He had landed here a few years earlier than me. The smile confused me more than the answer. 

He took me out in the car. Someone named, Kojo Nnamdi, spoke softly about the neighborhood in the WAMU 88.5. The name Kojo hardly rang any familiarity, a true sign of an immigrant, but his voice was deep and so was his words.

“We don’t have many white Christmases in Washington DC to boast about, but we do have plenty of homes in the neighborhood for the homeless. Coffee will be served in the morning with plum cakes and there will be sweaters with reindeer stitched on the front. Children from the neighborhood school, ‘The Foxwood Elementary’ will perform a choir and the evening meal is home made from those who are not fortunate to have one. For others, enjoy with your family and let the cookies bake sweet and brown.”

The shopping malls were closed and so were the restaurants and almost every single store we passed by in the car. It hardly looked like a festive season except that every corner of the neighborhood appeared to be a part of Disney movies with their lights and colors of green and red. We were a young couple, newly married, driving in search of a carry out dinner, trying to figure out the spirit of Christmas in a new country. Christmas, the festival that is celebrated with family inside homes.

That night the food was made at home, and we watched the movie, ‘Nightmare before Christmas’ by Tim Burton while nibbling the cookies from Costco. Our home was in a new land and the rest of our family in another faraway place and that year it did not snow either, but the warmth of welcome could be felt in the air. 

** It snowed once in 2009, in Virginia and there is a hopeful forecast of having a ‘White Christmas’ in 2020 

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