Nirmy Kang: Celebrations Past

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 (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

For Nirmy Kang, Christmas Eve celebrations over the decades map an immigrant’s personal and political history.

Christmas Eve 1974, it is the night before the wedding. The men are in the “banquet room” of the pub down the street, warmed by pegs of Johnnie Walker. In that sweet spot, no longer sober and not yet maudlin drunk. Back at the wedding house, there are towers of sweet jalebis, cardamom scented ladoos and chai bubbles on the stove and as the aunties finally take off their aprons, the singing and dancing begins. Outside, Britain is in the grips of recession. Inside, we have carried Punjab, piece by piece across an ocean in battered suitcases and homesick hearts.

Christmas Eve, 1979 and our adopted homeland has seeped in through nooks and crannies. We are having an “English party." There are sausage rolls and mince pies, Babycham and eggnog. Our upstairs tenants bring goat curry and their Harry Belafonte records. The next door neighbors their matching sweaters and a Tom Jones LP. Outside, the National Front march, spewing messages of racist hate. Inside, the sounds of sitars and sarangis mingle with cornets and steel drums as we celebrate. Black, white and brown.

Christmas Eve, 2012 and we are in the Golden State now. Two oceans and two generations away from our ancestors and the calls of the voices and places we left behind are muted. We gather around tables where silver and crystal shimmer for the land of milk and honey has been good. Outside, a Black man is our president. Inside, we marvel at how far we have come.

Christmas Eve, 2020. There is a pandemic, poverty, prejudice and polarization. We watched as a false emperor erected walls and placed children in cages. We watched a man, calling for his mother, as the very life was pressed out of him, by a knee to his neck. Silver linings have become tarnished and it is hard to know what celebration even looks like. Outside, a virus is raging, the rich become richer, the poor poorer. Our oceans boil and the forests burn. Inside, we celebrate over screens, reduced to the footprint of our homes, distanced from the ones we love.

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With a Perspective, I’m Nirmy Kang.

Nirmy Kang is a Bay Area writer.