Opening doors to the Christ Child
By Nilika de Silva
It's once again that time of year when along with "busy sidewalks dressed
in holiday style", people become
more caring and sharing, and try to help those less fortunate than themselves.
Christmas cards for many of us are symbols of seasonal cheer as we remember
friends and loved ones both near and far. And the spirit of caring has
now extended to this form of greeting, for 'cards for a cause' are gradually
replacing the conventional cards sold by printing houses. Not only individuals
but even corporate bodies are consciously sending cards sold by charitable
The pavement card stalls that spring up like mushrooms as the season
approaches are feeling this change, as the crowds no longer stop by. "This
year we are selling about 20 percent less than we usually do," said Sarath,
a card stall owner in Kollupitiya.
Be it children, the elderly, the disabled, the impoverished, they are
all remembered, when people count their blessings and look forward to the
start of a brand new year.
"Now I only send cards that help a cause," said Aruni, a young professional
whose mailing list runs to 40 - 50 cards each Christmas. "And whenever
I receive a greeting card, I flip it over to see which charity cause the
sender has helped," she added. "It's a nice kind of feeling, friends communicating
with each other, simultaneously befriending someone in some sad corner."
Daya Mina, a centre for persons with different abilities, encourages
the children to draw their own cards for Christmas and the New Year. The
proceeds earned through these cards are used for staff salaries and the
upkeep of the centre.
The students of Daya Mina have been preparing since October for the
seasonal card sales, said Sister Jayaseeli who has worked with the students
guiding them as they made these cards and other Christmas decorations,
now available at the sales outlet located at the centre at Imbuldeniya,
Nugegoda. The handmade cards sold at Rs. 15 and the printed cards priced
at Rs. 5 reflect the enthusiasm of these youngsters.
When The Sunday Times visited Daya Mina last week, Rushika Pullenayagam
(19) a young person with slow development who is also sensorially deprived,
was happily engaged in making cards for the season.
Sevana Lama Nivasa, Kotte, a home for the disabled run by the Crippled
Children's Aid Association has for many years been selling cards to collect
funds for the improvement of the home. The paintings which appear on their
cards this year are by well-known artist Iromi Wijewa-rdene, while one
youngster of the home too has drawn a card for the season.
Leading firms are also doing their bit for charity. Giant clothing store
ODEL has a special corner to market the products of worthy charities and
seasonal cards were seen there on sale even as early as November. Supermarkets
and printing houses have also generously helped in this charity exercise
by putting out such cards.
The Chitra Lane School for the Special Child has also produced cards
drawn by its students. The proceeds from the sale of these cards are in
aid of the school which provides many opportunities for the special child.
The Interact Club, the junior arm of Rotary is engaging this season in
collecting money to sponsor a free health camp to be held in Matale.
At a card stall located at the entrance to Majestic City, District Interact
Representative, Sanjika Perera said, "Doctors will provide their services
free, but the medicines have to be paid for. Thus, we hope to channel the
profits raised from the card sales towards this health camp."
Helpage cards too are sold at many outlets. Two cards sold would provide
one meal free for the elderly people who attend Helpage day care centres
around Sri Lanka. Many famous artists have made available their paintings
to be reproduced on behalf of Helpage.
Director, Marketing for Helpage, Basil Paiva, said that if anyone wished
to buy more than 150 cards they could be personalized and provided to them
with logo etc.
So if you've still got cards to send, consider the needy this Christmas.
Opening doors to the Christ Child
Nine days before Christmas, As sumpta Fernando is an unharried housewife.
She celebrates Christmas, yes. But not for her the hassles of frenetic
last-minute shopping for gifts and cards and baking the cake. Christmas
for her has a different meaning.
hands over the crib
On a quiet evening last week, Assumpta, her family and neighbours in
the sleepy Nittambuwa suburbs, opened their doors to a very special guest.
That night they welcomed into their home a crib, the hallowed symbol of
Christmas. This crib belonged to their church, St. Anthony's, Nittambuwa
and this significant act of venerating the Baby Jesus in their own homes
was their best preparation for the season.
Unlike midnight mass and carols lovingly cherished by Christians through
the centuries, "hosting the crib" is a modern rite begun only last year
in celebration of the 2000th anniversary of Christianity.
"We wanted to do something different to unite the Christian communities
scattered around Nittambuwa. So we decided that from the beginning of advent
until December 23, the crib would be taken to certain homes selected by
the parish groups. This would give the families, and indeed the entire
community the chance to meet, pray and share the Christmas spirit in a
very unique way," said Fr. Ranjith Madurawela, parish priest of St. Anthony's.
in prayer at her home
This year, three tiny cribs are doing the rounds in Nittambuwa, Ranpokunugama
and Veyangoda. Contrary to expectations, the "cribs" are not the Biblical
rough-hewn wooden mangers stuffed with straw, but in keeping with the times,
modern-looking glass cases enclosing a clay statue of the Infant Jesus.
A small statue of Christ on the cross illuminates the background and a
lamp burns in front. They signify the beginning, the end and eternal light
that shone from the very first Christmas.
For 41-year-old Assumpta, the presence of the Christ Child in her home
has brought new meaning to her faith. "Even my husband who is a Buddhist
feels it is a privilege to have the crib in our home."
Mother of four grown children, including a son in the army who is happily
home for Christmas, Assumpta believes that her prayers have always been
answered due to her staunch faith.
That evening she tenderly handed over the crib to the home down the
lane, next on the long list of "hosts". But on that day, as the children
came in wide-eyed wonder to say their prayers and make their wishes at
the crib in her modest living room, Assumpta was convinced that this was
her most meaningful Christmas.
Not far away, but deep within the Ranpokunugama housing scheme, Sunethra
de Silva's home had taken on a festive air, as the little procession wound
its way there. Her eight-year-old son and his friends were busy lighting
the candles in the colourfully decorated corner, which housed the crib.
"We sometimes forget the true meaning of Christmas in our rush to clean
our homes and prepare the table for Christmas. Those are the external trappings,
but this fellowship and the focus on the humble birth of Christ is what
makes us realise the true meaning of Christmas," she said.
Her husband, like Assumpta's is a Buddhist, but it makes no difference.
For they all share the true spirit of Christmas.
–Renuka and Kumudini