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  • Writer's pictureLeela Kirloskar

A Slice of Holiday Alchemy

And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.  ~ Roald Dahl

As December approaches, dragonflies shimmer and zigzag over the lawn every morning, their wings glinting in the pale winter sunlight. Occasionally, one lands on the pink frangipani tree in front of me, its delicate profile akin to a tiny fairy, lingering long enough for a quick photograph to post on Instagram. It’s the festive season and for as long as I can remember, this time of year never fails to brighten up my home and with it, my soul. Around me, brass, copper and silver bowls and ornaments from Diwali make way for glittery bead mats, a profusion of candles and bright tablecloths and runners threaded with gold and silver. Orange marigold plants are sent out to be planted in the waiting earth and little pots of scarlet poinsettias appear in time for Christmas. Inside, vases of yellow chrysanthemums grace staircase corners, replacing twisty lights and earthen lamps. As one season of celebration makes way for the next, the mood lightens, silliness prevails and we wait for the children to come home, our holiday rituals of renewal weaving magic into empty nests.

My holiday memories are backlit with a sort of joyous chaos and movement, of painting rangoli in front of the house, cleaning cupboards, stocking up the kitchen, polishing silver, buying fresh flowers and planning menus. I had little boys and dogs underfoot even as we got the house ready for the season, their fingers and paws in the white paint, chocolate fudge and Christmas ornaments, an infectious energy that lit up the house. Over the years, spaces and places have changed, holiday rituals have become flexible and it takes more effort to gather as we do, across miles and continents. We make new memories over a spicy messy-to-eat crab curry or platter of barbecued pork chops and revisit old ones over a traditional meal of anna saaru on silver thalis complete with a dollop of fragrant ghee just the way the boys love it. As my older son reminded me the other day on his all too brief visit, home really is wherever we are. That’s the gift of the holiday season.

If I go back in time, to other holidays spent at my grandparents’ home in Bangalore when we were children, it wasn’t so different. We always arrived to the bustle of kitchen activity getting ready for a horde of children over the summer. To snacks specially made for us, freshly roasted peanut and golden jaggery chikki piled high in steel boxes, fiery rings of kodbole and chakli, and my favourite coconut halbai. We went to drive-in movies, wandered around Cubbon Park and joined the adults in afternoon chatter every Saturday, after the enormous weekly family lunch where everyone was invited and which only got more elaborate during the festive season. When I lean back to feel this lineage, the way I’ve been taught to this year in my systemic constellation work, I feel a wealth of gratitude. For it was through these gatherings in my mother’s line, that I learnt how to create my own rituals and pass on my own stories. Where I learned about the effort it takes to make the magic that resonates along another generation.

Last year, a little brown paper packet of shiny glass marbles tumbled out of a Christmas cracker during a family dinner, and a host of tender memories followed. Of two little boys cycling into the village that used to be this neighbourhood to buy marbles; of watching them ride through red dust and sometimes, rain, with so much excitement and anticipation. When I showed them to my younger son, his eyes lit up, while mine teared. And so this piece of writing was born, on the back of that memory, to celebrate some of the holiday magic ahead of us.

Really, all it takes is a little bit of faith, trust and pixie dust. Happy Holidays.

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