Christmas Is Coming

By Mary Teresa Nies, O.C.D.

Christmas was always exciting for me. Looking back on my childhood, I can remember how I always looked for the animals, and for the bright star on top of the crib. I was fascinated with the sheep, the donkey and the cow. I knew that the breath of the animals kept the Baby warm. Following Mass, the family looked forward to the Christmas dinner, which consisted of chicken, vegetables, Christmas Pudding and Christmas Cake. We would all look for the sixpence (in value, six pennies) hidden in the Christmas Pudding. This is the one thing I have really missed since I left Australia twenty years ago. As a small child, it was a ‘thrupence” (three pennies) that was hidden in the pudding. (Actually, I don’t recall ever seeing that word written out.) Today, however, it is the sixpence.

The Poor Women

When I left Australia in 1981, and had my first Christmas meal in India, I found it to be a culture shock. I went to Midnight Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral, Mysore, India. The Cathedral was lovely. People said that there were a thousand candles at the back of the altar. The Cathedral was packed. In India, the men sit on one side of the Church and the women on the other side. Many of the women had beautiful sarees on. Only the poor women had to sit on the wooden floor. Many of these women wore torn sarees. I was deeply moved when I saw these poor women. When I came out of the Cathedral, I saw many beggars on the street. I often gave them money. For our own Christmas meal, there in India, we had curry chicken and rice. After dinner, I would distribute forty-five sarees to the poorest village women.

In 1987, I went home to Sydney for Christmas. I was seriously ill. When my brother took me out for Christmas dinner, I found it hard to eat rich food, again. In 1991, I came to America and experienced Christmas in Carmel.

They Would Smile

Looking back over the years, I realize that each country has its own beautiful way of celebrating Christmas. I have also been to Sri Lanka and Pakistan. In all of these countries, the poorest of the poor come alive at Christmas. When I was there, they would smile, and their faces would be aglow. They knew that Jesus was coming for them, and they were very happy. Even the dying on the streets had their hands out. They would say, "Christmas is coming!" I would touch them and speak to them, and they would say, “I’ll be seeing Him!”

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