A few years ago I had the opportunity to work on a project with colleagues in India; and then as the project went “live”, I got the chance to travel to India for the implementation. It was a difficult, amazing, wild experience. When the project was finished, I remained in contact with one of the individuals in India.
This week that person came to the US, where he will be for the next 8 days. When he arrived, he asked if we could get together. He wanted me to come to his place, where he would cook me dinner. What a sweet offer! Of course I accepted; and this evening, he and I dined and chatted.
We talked about a variety of things: certainly about work, but also about school, and marriage, and sports, and celebrations/holidays, and travel, and family… and in the midst of one of our tangents, the topic of “Secret Santa” came up.
His office has played “Secret Santa” for the past few years; but since he is Hindu, I wondered aloud if it was weird for him to participate in such a Christmas-themed affair. He said no, he has many Christian friends, and he is used to giving them small gifts during December. He explained that his Christian friends reciprocate by giving him Diwali gifts; it all works out. I then probed a bit into what kinds of gifts he gives for Secret Santa; is it trinkets, or nicer items, or things that are more sentimental in value like kind notes?
He answered that last year he gave a small plush animal, because the recipient liked animals very much. And the year before that, he gave “a small doll of Christ that illuminated”.
I wasn’t quite sure what he meant, so I probed a little; and I learned that he gave:
A small glow-in-the-dark Jesus figurine.
And I laughed. I can only imagine what the recipient might have thought about receiving such an item; but knowing that it truly was given only with the purest, most honest, best intentions, I smiled.
Cultural contrasts are complex, and can be confusing; but when entered with a spirit of compassion and care, can be amazingly convivial and captivating. I think Christ would approve. : )