This week we’re delighted to be sharing creative work by Mona Bibi that explores Christmas, homecoming and both collective grief and hope. Enjoy!
Author’s Note: I am a Master’s student in Manchester. Being Muslim means that Christmas does not have any religious importance to me, but it does always give me the chance to go back home – which is London. This year was particularly special due to the lockdown meaning I couldn’t go home for most of the year. This is how Christmas feels to me, as an observer.
I’m walking down Oxford Street.
Last time I did this, it was June. It was warm, it was stuffy, and everyone was everywhere.
Now, it’s cold, crisp, and quieter.
That is, aside from the occasional giggle of passing couples, or from young people on holiday – sharing a new, foreign Christmas.
I am thankful for my mask now as it keeps my face warm. As I begin to notice everyone else’s unique masks, I realise how different it feels to not see everyone’s faces, smiling as they welcome the holidays.
Instead, the smiles are in the eyes, reflecting brighter than the Christmas lights.
I wonder how it feels to see all these lights for the first time, twinkling in the fog.
Excitedly, I join the queue for some seasonal hot chocolate and notice the silent ones passing by.
The silent ones are the ones walking home from work – praying they get that extra time off to see their families for the holidays. Although holidays often call for shopping, I hope that we can be kinder to those that work hard and sacrifice their holiday to facilitate that festive tradition.
I begin to see these silent ones more than I see the tourists and the shoppers.
I hear their footsteps faster than everyone else’s; there is a longing to start the time of ease and happiness that others have already begun to enjoy. Everyone is trying to get home from all over the country; all over the world.
I hope we can remember that the year has treated us all differently. I hope we can remember that the end of this year has been yearned for, more than ever.
The loss we have all endured should not be forgotten in the midst of this Christmas warmth. Instead, I wonder if we can celebrate our collective ability to get through this year.
It’s a blessing that I am able to be here, observing.
It’s a blessing that no one walking down this street – whether believing in one God, believing in many, believing in none – no one can deny that the lights are beautiful. That the lights are bringing us hope and promise. The chance to look forward.
I sit down on a cold bench now and watch the world on holiday, and everyone looks up at the lights. Not once, not twice, but with every wave that is passed in this sea of lights.
Everyone will take their phones out and take a quick snap. Even I do the same – as if I’m not here every year.
As I continue down the brightly lit road, I realise how many people I’ve heard of who leave London with complaints of fast-paced life, uninviting pedestrians, and stressful environments. But what about those that call this life home?
The noise, the lights, the energies are all comforting to me. It doesn’t matter where I am in the world, studying, working, or generally being busy; I will always come back here to slow down time.
Christmas is important to us in different ways: for some, it is a chance to reflect on their spirituality and religion. For others, it is a chance to enjoy traditional food and customs.
But for me, Christmas gives me the chance to see my loved ones. I may not put up a tree in my house, but I can admire the many trees that decorate the city.
The city I have the privilege of calling home.
When I reach the bottom of the road, I hop onto my trusty red bus and climb to the top to see the lights I leave behind, and I smile farewell. This is how my dreams began; this is where they will always be re-ignited.
For this is how it feels to finally be home again.
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