“I grew up in Bombay and this was one of my favourite festivals there,” says Akanksha Arora, as she recounts her earliest memories of Christmas. “Every Christmas eve, my mom would take my siblings and me on a drive to see the lights and decorations. I remember this one furniture store in Bandra, Damian, would put up incredible decorations and I always looked forward to seeing that. We would end the jaunt with a trip to Mount Mary church.” Now with two kids of her own, aged five-years and eighteen-months, she hopes for them the same happy memories she has of the holiday season.
From decorating the tree to a family secret Santa, Akanksha brings out the festive feel in her beautiful Jaipur home. “I do this for my kids…I started when my son was born five years ago. Even when they eventually find out that Santa isn’t real, I hope the tradition and memories continue to grow. I hope they remember the joy, excitement and family time spent together.” Her top tip for celebrating with the kids – involve them in the whole experience. “Festivals with kids is chaotic, no doubt, but a lot of fun. I always have them decorate the tree with me. My daughter, who is one-and-a-half-years old, loves the shiny baubles and keeps running away with them. That’s part of the whole experience.”
With a tree and large snowman that she bought from Khan Market, New Delhi, Akanksha has a special attachment to the baubles she’s been collecting over the last five years. Each has been
Akanksha has been collecting Christmas décor for over five years from all over the world – the tree and snowman from Khan Market in New Delhi, the personalised stocking with her children’s initials from Pottery Barn in New York, the tree topper from Dubai, and a multitude of unique tree ornaments from charming street markets in Europe and America.
picked up on her travels around the world, from big department stores to charming street markets. “There are birds, a yoga mat, wood pieces hand-painted by local Jaipur craftsmen, baubles with the kids’ initials, a Princess Jasmine for my daughter, Santa in swimming trunks on a surfboard for my son…each has a memory and sentimental value attached to it. Now I have a whole collection of 30-odd baubles from all over the world.” One that holds special value is a jewelled ‘A’ in amethyst and silver gifted to her by her father-in-law which he got made at the Amrapali workshop.
For Akanksha, Christmas is all about making beautiful memories with her kids. Each year, she involves them in the whole experience – from putting up the tree to secret Santa to hot chocolate by the bonfire on their family Christmas dinner night.
Every year, the family gets together for secret Santa and Christmas dinner before everyone goes on their vacations. “This year is obviously different,” she continues, “I had finally agreed to go to London for Winter Wonderland, but we had to cancel that. We usually go to Goa because I don’t like the cold.” However, just because the trip has been cancelled, doesn’t mean Christmas has. Akanksha set up the tree, one runaway bauble at a time, with the kids. “The tablescape is also very festive, I use my red dinnerware and table linen. We make hot chocolate because who doesn’t love that! I am not personally a fan of the traditional Christmas log cake so I make my own chocolate version. I move the tree down to the lawn and we have our secret Santa with hot chocolate and a bonfire.”
One of the biggest lessons she hopes to teach her kids is that festive fun does not need to involve wastage. “That’s one thing we should collectively be more careful about. I think all festivals have so much wastage after we are done; it takes away from the whole experience. As educated people, we need to be more mindful of our actions. Even for Diwali this year, we made sure all our decor was sustainable. For example, I used flowers from our farm instead of buying them,” she explains.
Eventually, she wants to find a real pine tree that grows with each Christmas gathering to teach her kids not to buy plastic. This year, they are also switching to recycled wrapping paper and she has decorated her terrace with potted Poinsettias that will last year-round. Simple, sustainable and splendidly festive.
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