Every family has their Christmas traditions, and Sari Bari is no different.

Each year, there’s a myriad of color and activity as the women celebrate this important time of the year. Out come the balloons, streamers, music, presents and food… lots of food. There’s dancing and joy in abundance.

We do Christmas Indian-style over here.

Christmas is not that big of a deal in Kolkata because it’s usually seen as any other festival. In the West, Christmas decorations go up at the end of November, and there’s always a buzz around the season, which crescendos into a big celebration. But over here, decorations go up only a few days before Christmas Day. It’s a quick event – you set up the decorations, you have the celebration, and then you take it all down.

Sari Bari is closed for Christmas Day, so the Sari Bari units have their own festivities in the week before Christmas. The night before the party, the women will stay back late from work to hang streamers and blow up balloons on their own time.

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The parties usually start with the women sharing ‘cha’ and snacks in the morning, often while singing Bengali Christmas carols. Managers lead the women in a time of reflection about the meaning of Christmas.

And there are gifts… no Christmas is complete without an exchange of gifts! Each year, there’s a different gift selected for the women, whether it’s a bracelet or shawl. But most years, managers hand-select a beautiful new sari for each woman. It’s a special time where the women are individually presented with a gift that’s been chosen, just for them.

One year we gave the women two silver bracelets, and many of the women kept one bracelet for themselves, but gave the other one away to a close friend or a daughter. It’s amazing to watch these women live such generous lives. And if you visit Sari Bari, you’ll notice many of the ladies wearing their bracelet each day!

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In true Christmas form, after gift giving, we eat. Everyone lines up to fill their bellies with food served from big silver pots, overflowing with food. And then it’s dancing time. Our prevention unit hosts the most lively dance party… they roll out the sound system and EVERYONE joins in. There’s so much laughter and joy. What a way to celebrate!

Merry Christmas from the Sari Bari family! We trust you and your families celebrate with full bellies, big smiles and thankful hearts.

Written by Nicole Peck