Shillong, Dec 26 (IANS) Little Medawanker Suchiang and his cousins were all excited unwrapping boxes full of Christmas gifts. This day, after Christmas, is Boxing Day, when young and old and across the world eagerly wait to open their Christmas presents.
“Santa Claus has presented me with a toy gun,” Medawanker said as he unwrapped his gift kept near the Christmas tree.
His cousin sister Aretha Ranee was excited as she received a tent house and kitchen sets.
Boxing Day – December 26 – is the feast day of Saint Stephen and is also called St. Stephen’s Day. Boxing Day got its name because it was the tradition for employers to give a Christmas gift to their staff on that day — a Christmas box.
Boxing Day is also part of the 12 days of Christmas tradition and is officially classed as the second day of Christmastide.
Christmastide officially ends on January 6, with the feast of Epiphany — marking the day the Three Wise Men from the East presented their gifts to the infant Jesus, having followed a star to locate the baby.
Alms boxes are placed in every church on Christmas Day for worshippers to put in gifts for the poor of the parish. The boxes are opened on Boxing Day.
“I got woollen sweaters for my kids and a cardigan for myself and my husband,” said Thei Ieid Lyngdoh, a domestic helper who looks forward to this day of gifts.
Churches across the city are organising community feasts which will continue right up to New Year’s Eve.
“Christmas is a time for sharing and caring for each other and promoting love and peace. And what better way to do so than to organise community feasts,” said Henry Diengdoh, busy serving local dishes to children in the Divine Saviour Church premises.
Called ‘Bam Khana Krismas’ in the local language, these are occasions of great rejoicing when people of all communities share food cooked in a common kitchen.
Christmas across the eight northeastern states — Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Tripura, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Sikkim — has always been different. People from all faiths join in the celebrations, strengthening bonds of togetherness and mutual respect.
Shillong, which is dotted with churches and chapels, wears a festive air this time of the year with street corners and households tastefully illuminated and parks and lake sides teeming with friends and families.
With state government offices and institutions closed for Christmas and New Year, Shillong these days is a city of leisure.
While government offices are scheduled to reopen in the first week of January, schools, colleges and other educational institutions will begin classes from mid-February.
(Raymond Kharmujai can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)