THEY BURNT OUR CHRISTMAS TREE
“What is a Christmas tree, mom?” asked little Maria. She was quite excited.
“It is a tree we have on Christmas day with a lot of prizes,” little Maria was not satisfied with her mom’s answer.
“No mom, Angel told me so many things about it. Will God come through the tree?” she couldn’t understand that God will come and keep prizes for all under the tree.
Angel, Maria’s neighbor had told her many Christmas stories which she learnt from her grandma when she visited her last time. Angel said that her grandma will come on the Christmas day with a basketful of sweets. She also promised Maria that she would share the sweets with her.
Not only Maria but all the children in that street, and all in that small village Chinnapallam were excited!
For the first time in the village, they were going to see a Christmas tree.
“What will be Christmas tree?” All the hearts in that new village throbbed with this question. Only one in that village knew the answer! Brother Anto. They called him “Anthu Anna’’ “Anna” means elder brother.
Chinnapallam is a new village parish. Only recently some families received baptism and became Christians. The Catechist who lived with them in their village taught them religion and also alphabets. Their village was far away from the town and other villages. Actually they were in another village. After becoming Christians they were excommunicated from their village by the higher caste people and by their own caste people.
Fr. Gabriel supported them to find some place in some vacant area where they built thatched sheds and settled. They walked a great distance to find odd jobs for their livelihood. Some of them went into the nearby forest area, collected firewood and sold in neighboring villages and town. Daily life was a fight for them.
Anthu Anna consulted with Fr. Gabriel and planned to celebrate Christmas in a grand manner. It is he who gave the idea of Christmas tree. He told all the children and others in the community will have a prize from the Christmas tree.
They didn’t have even a proper church building. Only a thatched shed with a table. There was trunk box to keep the vestments and other things for services. Once in a month Fr. Gabriel will come and conduct services. He educated some children of Chinnapallam in some boarding schools with the help of some benefactors. He wanted to help the people in all possible ways, to educate them, to make them live without caste differences, to live happily. That was why they were attracted to become Christians.
They were happy to be Christians in spite of their poverty. They called one another brother and sister and behaved like one family sharing their everything under the leadership of Anthu Anna.
On the 24th December, most of the villagers didn’t go out for any job. The children didn’t go to school. The school in which they studied didn’t know anything about Christian celebrations. The people in those villages had an aversion towards Christians and treated them as low caste people. They wouldn’t even share water with them. Christians for the high caste people were mere animals.
Anthu Anna found a vacant place outside the village where all could gather after the midnight ceremonies. There he arranged a big tree with the help of some youngsters. Fr. Gabriel brought a lot of prize articles like sweets, things, etc. all in packets. He told there even valuable prizes. It was a kind of lucky dip. All the prize packets were tied to the tree which Anthu Anna erected in the center of the place he selected.
Night wore on. Everyone was excited to celebrate Christmas. They were waiting for Fr. Gabriel. All the children were eagerly waiting to wear the new dresses Fr. Gabriel had given them.
At midnight all gathered in the church for the service. Fr. Gabriel brought the statue of Child Jesus. All were happy to sing the songs Anthu Anna had taught them.
There was none in the village. All had gathered in the church. Fr. Gabriel was giving a sermon about the birth of Christ, about his love. He told we also must live in peace loving one another.
Suddenly there was a shout. Smoke and fire.
“Oh, they have burnt our Christmas tree,” cried little Maria. With her cried little Jesus!
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