Our MultiCultural Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone! 

 

A while back some people asked me to blog about how Satya and I will be celebrating Christmas this year.  This year will be a bit different because we aren’t celebrating it in Minnesota with my family.

 

My aunt seems a little worried that I’ll turn my back on my Catholic upbringing.  For my birthday this year she gave me: cloth Christmas placemats and napkins, an Advent wreath, and some homemade soap from a monastery (smells like Christmas soap), and a batch of her special 7 Step Bars (one of my favorite sweets). 

 

Advent wreaths count down the weeks until Christmas.  The first Sunday of Advent one candle is lit.  This past weekend was the fourth Sunday so all candles were lit.  The third Sunday of Advent always has a pink candle.  The other candles are all either purple or blue-the colors of advent. Each Sunday has a name and a special theme.  For example, the third Sunday is called “Gaudete” which means “Rejoice” because soon Christmas will arrive.  The Advent wreath also came with prayers to say while lighting the candles.  Each week has a different prayer.  When I was a kid, we would make Advent wreaths in Wednesday night religion class and be sent home with prayers to say. 

 

Each Christmas season sometime after Thanksgiving my mom’s family would start baking.  They’d make fudge, gingerbread, spritz cookies, lemon bars, plantation bars, 7 Step Bars (graham cracker crust, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, coconut and more), and more.  On the weekends when we’d come to my grandparent’s house for Sunday Supper we’d play games and watch movies and eat lots of sweets.  The sweets would be stored in empty Blue Bunny ice cream buckets and put in “the cold room”-the coldest room of the upstairs near the attic where there was no heat.  This year, since we aren’t making it back, my aunt sent me my favorite kind.  Someday I’m sure I will make 7 Step bars with my own kids.  Luckily, Satya likes them too.

 

We did get a Christmas tree.  We got ours about two weeks ago.  It was a journey!  First we went to Home Depot because we heard they had $30 trees.  We didn’t like any of their trees.  Then, we went to Lowe’s.  Their trees weren’t much better, but they were on sale and we found a cute round one.  It was also bitterly cold outside-the wind was blowing hard.  We asked Lowe’s for a tree stand, but they sold out.  We went back to Home Depot but they also had sold out.  2 weeks before Christmas!!  Then we tried Target.  At Target we found some cute ornaments and some great multi-colored lights, but no tree stand. We even got so desperate as to go to Whole Foods because they had a lot of Christmas trees for sale.  They too were sold out of tree stands.  After Whole Foods, we got so sick of the whole thing we decided to go across the river to New Jersey.  We raced back to our apartment, put the tree in a mixing bowl in the tub so it wouldn’t dry out too much and then continued our search.  We had to drive almost an hour, but the first place we tried did have a tree stand. They sold out of their metal tree stands, but still had plenty of the plastic kind. 

 

Then, we decided to eat at one of our favorite South Indian restaurants, but it was packed so we walked down to an Italian one.  We returned home, put the tree in the stand and then decorated it.  When we were finished at roughly 12:30 am, Satya got on Skype and showed his parents our tree.  It was our first tree as a couple and Satya’s first Christmas tree period. 

 

Ornaments:  We got our ornaments at Pier 1, Target and A.C. Moore.  Pier 1 has some gorgeous ornaments.  We found a simple angel holding a harp go at the top of the tree. At Pier 1 I found a red bird ornament complete with green glitter to outline the wings and bright red tail feathers.  My grandmother had Christmas ornaments from her family going back to the ’20s and ’30s.  Some of my favorites were the delicate bird ornaments.  She even had little nests to go with the birds!  We also found the obligatory “Merry Christmas 2008” ornament to commemorate our first Christmas tree and first Christmas married.  Satya’s ornament taste runs more to the rustic.  He loves cabins for some reason.  One of his picks was a little house painted dark red with a tin roof.  Maybe some day we will have a little red cabin…We did try to find a star to go on top the tree. Stars and angels are the most popular choices for tree toppers.  Also, stars are more multicultural for us than angels since Hindu representations of angels don’t look like Christian representations of angels.  Stars are basically stars though and stars are also very important for Deepauli.  Once we find one we like we’ll replace the angel.  Other ornaments are a red reindeer, sled, white owl, and a beaded reindeer.  We have about 12 ornaments.  I figure that as the years go by we will slowly gather more. 

 

Tonight we plan on traveling to be with the family of my sister-in-law.  Her family is from Argentina so we will be having a very multicultural celebration.  We will be doing a simple gift exchange and eating lots of food.  Satya mentioned going to midnight Mass, but I don’t think anybody else is Catholic besides me.  We might try to find one, or may not.  Going to church does make Christmas seem more real-my favorite time of year for churchgoing was always Advent and the Christmas Season.

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Names

What are your favorite Hindu names?  Satya and I like to day dream about the future and think about what we’d name our hypothetical children.   This day is a few years off, but it is still fun.

 

We have a few names for girls, but are having a tough time with boy names.  Also, we’d like to keep close to our family’s naming traditions.  In my family everyone is named after a saint and after a beloved family member.  This isn’t too hard to stick too because nearly all Western names are matched to a saint.  It does eliminate newer names like Britney or Ashley.

 

My favorite grandfather’s name was “Valentine” which is a name that I think would work for a girl.  Satya is afraid of that name—he thinks that if we give a girl that name she will take after her name too much and if we gave the name to a boy that he’d get bullied at school.

 

 

In Satya’s family it is a bit different.  All the men in his family of his generation and back are named after an incarnation of Shiva and end in either “esh” or “ish”.  He says that kids should not be given the name of a beloved elder because it would be disrespectful to use the elder’s name when scolding the child. 

 

His cousins who recently had kids are changing this up a bit.  Maybe Lingayat name fashions are changing?  His cousins selected names for their children that aren’t related to a god or godess, but are related to a positive quality.  One of the names translates to “Long life” and another to “Success”. 

 

Our girl name is “Anushka” or “Anoushka” because it is both a Slavic European name and a Sanskrit name.  Also, it can be shortened to “Anu” which is a common name in Karnataka.  The middle name isn’t decided yet.  Satya kind of likes the name “Kiran”, but I’m not sure.

 

One of my sisters and I created a name from the middle names of our beloved grandfathers.   We came up with “Blaise Eric”, but Satya thinks that is a terrible name.  I suppose it does seem a bit too “romance novel” like.  Also, he would be creeped out by giving them the names of my dead grandfathers. 

 

We haven’t found any boy names yet that we both like.  Does anyone have any suggestions?

Lingayats Targeted for Conversion

To Lingayats, perhaps this is old news.  To those in the U.S. or married to Lingayats this may come as a shock.  I knew I was shocked and angered to discover that Lingayats are being specifically targeted by American Evangelicals for conversion.

 

 Satya is not shocked at all.  He’s heard of Christian missionaries settling near his home. He says that some people are initially tolerant of missionaries, until they discover that the missionaries are trying to convert them.  Then there are reactions such as the missionary being ignored, beat up, or of people converting for material benefits. 

 

Satya has a lot of patience.  This spring we attended Mass with my family and the priest was talking in his homily about the importance of worshipping only one god.  My family all cringed, but Satya was unconcerned.  He’s heard it all before and I guess it rolls off of him pretty easily by now. 

 

We both do not have a problem with Christians-I am Catholic after all, and he has attended Mass with my family a few times.  Satya grew up in a very tolerant and diverse environment-he has Christian and Muslim friends he’s known for years.  He attended a school founded by German missionaries.  It is the conversion part we both have issues with.  To me it is insulting and condescending.  Lingayats are not lost people without a history or culture nor are they immoral.  Satya and my in laws are extremely intelligent, kind, tolerant, and spiritual people. 

 

 My own view is that everyone should be left to their own devices.  The best witness to a religion is being a good person.  If anyone is going to convert in our relationship it will likely be me because I do not agree with the hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church and I think that Lingayats know better how to live in a multicultural world.  If people ask, then tell them about your religion.  Do not manipulate people or bribe them.

 

Missionaries can destabilize an area and put their believers in danger.  If the missionaries or their followers anger a group of Hindus or Muslims then the Hindus and Muslims could persecute the followers.  The missionaries leave to return to their homelands and the local converts are left to face the wrath of their neighbors.  It also fuels the fire of the Hindu and Muslim fundamentalist groups. 

 

 

 Links

Baptist Press   This article is of Baptists bragging about their success converting Lingayats.

 

Joshua Project   This website shows which groups around the world are being actively targeted by Evangelicals.  Not only is it offensive, some of their information is blatantly wrong and/or condescending.  One of the links they list to learn more about Lingayats is www.everyculture.com

Here is what they say about Lingayats and the arts “Although Lingayats in past centuries were noted for their religious poetry and philosophical writings, today the chief arts are the singing and playing of hymns. There is no marked ability shown in the visual arts.” Who judges that?  How?

And about Medicine, “Lingayat priests (called ayya or swami) are also astrologers and medicine men, often dispensing herbal remedies to sick villagers. This is a useful craft for them to possess, rather than a learned profession.”  This is despite the fact that Satya’s family has numerous doctors and dentists.  The site makes Lingayats sound like a primitive tribe complete with witch doctors rather than a group of people part of the modern world. 

 

 

Here is a website of Indian Christians trying to evangelize Karnataka.  I do have some sympathy for their cause because they are trying to help people few are willing or able to, namely street kids and eunuchs.  Also, these are Indian Christians trying to evangelize other Indians.  Still, I’m uncomfortable.  I don’t think it is a tragedy that the number of Christians is falling in Karnataka.  Christianity won’t solve Karnataka’s challenges.  Neither do I think that Hinduism created those challenges.  This website has false claims such as that thanks to missionaries Kannada is a written language and its people speak English thus allowing them to compete with the rest of the world.  Kannada has been a written language for hundreds of years.  The people of Karnataka know English because India was a British colony.

      

 

 

Blog

 

This blog records acts of persecution against Christians in India.  Although it does do an important job of recording some injustices, I do wonder about the full back story of the incidents.  What was the situation like before the attacks?  Were the Christians providing a peaceful witness by being good people, or were they using questionable tactics to gain converts?  Were they in a location that wanted their presence? How long had the Christians been in the area-hundreds of years, or just a few? There is no excuse for violence, but usually there is a reason.

 

 

Conclusion

So where does this all leave us?  Would more education in U.S. schools about geography, languages, and cultures help?  Will the conversion laws in India be effective while still allowing those who genuinely feel the need to convert, convert?  How do we show tolerance towards those who themselves are intolerant? 

 

 

 

Book “Mixed Matches”

Sunday Satya and I began reading “Mixed Matches: How to Create Successful Interracial, Interethnic, and Interfaith Relationships” by Joel Crohn, PhD. 

We just read the first chapter which basically said:

           -Sometimes conflicts arise from differences in culture, not just in personality and temperment.

           -It is better to try to discuss things as clearly and as in much detail as possible beforehand.  One example from the book is a Catholic/Lutheran couple who vaguely discussed religion in terms of, “I want our children to be good Christians” instead of discussing exactly what being “a good Christian” is.  Turns out, the wife’s family convinced her to baptize the child without consulting the husband.  Big mistake. 

  So far the book hasn’t led to any great insights, but it is early yet.  Next weekend we will tackle another chapter. 

  We have discussed a bit how we would raise any possible children.  We would introduce the stories of both religions.  For my Catholic faith, this would mean Bible stories, prayers, and stories of the saints.  Satya remembers really enjoying some Buddhist stories so he’d like to introduce our future kids to those stories, especially since Buddhism and Hinduism are so closely related. 

  I know my family would really like for our future kids to be baptized and to attend Catholic Mass with the rest of the family on key occassions. 

  One difficulty will be differences in how our families passed down religion.  My family believed that it was the duty of the family to introduce the kids to religion and keep them on the right track (requiring kids to attend Mass with rest of the family each Sunday, requiring attendance at religion class, etc.)  His family believes religion is more of a personal matter and that the choice of what to believe and how to practice should be left up to the child.

Weddings, Weddings, Weddings

I will be posting notes on our wedding planning.  Altogether, we will probably have done 5 different ceremonies/blessings by next spring. 

In March we had a tiny wedding in my old apartment.  We had only 7 people present, including ourselves. We eloped.

In August we will be going to Minnesota so that his family can meet my family.  We will have one ceremony in a garden, and the other at my 90 year old grandmother’s nursing home.  She is very frail, but still loves a good time. 

At this time, we are unsure what kind of ceremony we will have in the garden.  We will need to create our own ceremony, but have been putting it off.  I was raised Catholic, but as we are already married and as we have no intention of raising our future, hypothetical children as Catholics we will not have a Catholic marriage mass.

Sometime next spring we will be going to India to have a Lingayat ceremony.  One celebration will be at his parent’s home and the other will probably be at a marriage hall.  The second will be a “small” wedding by his family’s standards-about 500 people.  It will be Satya’s first time in India since he left in late 2000 and my first time in India, period. 

We figure at the end we will be truly blessed!