Imagine Christmas fairs dotting the streets of Shillong and other major towns in the Christian-dominated states of the North-east on December 25. There would be thousands of people, cutting across religious lines, thronging these places on the auspicious day. Christmas in the hills states of the region is not yet ‘commercialised’ unlike festivals including Christmas in the plain areas. Just hundred kilometres away from the capital of Meghalaya, the streets of Guwahati has more footfalls of Christmas revelers. It is because of the extrovert way of celebrating festivals by the plains people. On the other hand, people in the hills prefer to do the merrymaking with their near and dear ones in a modest and private manner. Both the ways of celebration have their vice and virtues.
Before making the observations, a reference to the Bihu festival of Assam would not be out of place. The festival, which was confined to the fields and kitchens, has made it to the stages in the urban areas let alone the 24×7 channels. In the process, the festival got ‘corrupt’, drawing ire from the orthodox school, but at the same time it ensured greater participation of a larger section of the society comprising various communities. The near absence of religious rituals celebrating the festival also helped greater participation of people of different caste and community. This happens at the cost of ‘purity’, which is again a subject of debate. History is the witness that culture always goes to phases of transition, transformation and reformation.
The low volume of Christmas celebration also might have its genesis in the harsh cold weather of the hills during this time. But things are different now. Cold or heat hardly makes any difference in the modern way of life. If there is a will there is a way, to turn things around. A little extravagant fanfare during Christmas would help a lot of other things besides raising the enjoyment level. It will make people, irrespective of caste and communities, come out of their house and join the revellers. More footfall means more circulation of money. Local entrepreneurs can benefit from such occasions and the place can earn a name for itself. And who knows, a place like Shillong, which is just three-hour drive from Guwahati, the heart of North-east, might become the most favoured destination on December 25?
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on December 27, 2013)