Tessa Ransford OBE, Hon.DUniv (Paisley), MA, Dip Ed
Poetry Practitioner and Adviser
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as I remember celebrating in the 1960s
(Sialkot is in the North East of the Punjab, near the Kashmir border. I worked in a welfare centre for women and children in a part of the city called Christiantown.)

Blessings on the big day.
(bare din mumbarak ho)

a bowl of steaming rice
see it cooking in the courtyard
ladled out a Christmas taste
for the children of the compound
never mind the dirt and flies
it makes a feast, a concert

for Christmastime brings cold winds
from Kashmir and storms of rain
but today the sun shines gently
and the goat-stew curried gravy
simmers with potatoes
carrots and tomatoes,
let's lick our lips again

beat the tabla
sweep the house
a bright dopatta
coloured clothes
with tinselled border

spangly shoes from the bazaar
fresh milk from the buffalo
shawl washed at the river bank
hair washed at the common pump
fetch the baby, run and follow

sing psalms and clap hands
dogs and donkeys flick their ears
the camel kneels
the vulture wheels
we live for the day today
sweetmeats and jamboree
jerseys given from charity
sit in shade beneath the trees

Santa Claus is nothing here
chimneys, candles, twigs of fir
presents, dancing, parties.
Here it's staving off hunger
hope of cure
for dysentery, malaria
hope that grain-growing weather
give us lentils and chapatis

sugar cane is in the fields
sweet and sticky, juicy yields
irrigation channels flow
chrysanthemums and dahlias
in pots on verandas
poinsettia bushes glow

new life, new sun
divine become human
earth blessed anew
we accept and know
this is somehow true

written in aid of the Sick Children's Hospital, Edinburgh, Christmas 2009

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