There’s no getting away from Christmas.
The traditions that my mother, father and I observed all those years remain special – they reflected who we were as a family – and they were, with slight modifications, the traditions my husband and I observed during the years of our marriage. Being now without family, and having found that Christmas is the time of year I miss my parents unbearably (despite – or perhaps because of the kindness of friends who have in the past invited me to share their Christmases), I thought that this year I would conduct an experiment – a “Christmas you have without having Christmas”. You’ll notice the conundrum I’m sure: because it was Christmas, some observance was necessary!
Initially I had the excellent notion to spend a week or ten days at the meditation centre, but when my helper had to go into hospital for a procedure, the uncertainty of her condition made me think better of that. Besides, what have been cool, grey, periodically stormy days here in Colombo, have been days of intense rain, with flooding and landslips, ‘upcountry’. On Christmas day here in Paradise, over a quarter of a million people were classified as “flood affected”; thirty-four people had died, and nine people were still listed as missing.
In the end, I got onto Agoda, and found two nights at a hotel in the city. “Christmas without Christmas” would become “Christmas in the City”. What a treat! How often do we holiday in our own city? I could take advantage of deserted streets to at last begin to photograph the city I’ve called ‘home’ all these years.
Sunset wasn’t flashy, but given the circumstances, a positive portent of good weather for Christmas day.
Christmas Eve, with the waves running up to the shore just beside us, was idyllic, warm and balmy, as only tropical nights can be.
On Christmas morning, while I waited for my breakfast – a couple of Mimosas, fresh tropical fruit, and Eggs Florentine – the rhythm of the waves forced me to turn off the beloved Christmas music that was making me too nostalgic for the memories it evoked. There was a gentle breeze, the sea was calm and that restful grey-green-blue of the sea on a slightly cloudy day.
Briefed, Gunaratne and I set out in his snowy white tuk tuk to shoot the city.
It was, as I had thought, possible to stop and pull over almost at will – and there was an unexpected pleasure. Because it was a public holiday, the people I met were in a holiday mood – there was a lightness and ease of manner that I remembered from my first trip to the island, exactly twenty years ago this month. One cannot discount the pleasure of shared laughter and open conversation, and I’ve come home from my Christmas in the City holiday remembering why I’ve always been enchanted by the people of Paradise.
I didn’t have time to go through all 445 photographs before dressing for dinner at The Gallery Cafe. It being Christmas, I dressed up – makeup and ‘high heels’, with my Venetian beads for a touch of drama.
I ordered a small bottle of Piper Heidsieck (not my favorite champagne, but champagne is my favourite, and I thought a full bottle would be excessive!). My starter of crab ‘lasagna’ was pleasant, but the pork belly with wasabi and spices was subtle, surprising, and delicious. Afterwards I took a circuitous route back to the hotel to capture some of the Christmas lights.
What a wonderful day – as Christmas Day should be.
I hope you all had a happy day too, doing whatever it was you chose to do – or not – this Christmas day, 2012.