Far from a winter wonderland

Miranda Kennedy Dec 19, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: Chestnuts on an open fire…fine. We can all relate to that. What about tandoori chicken roasting on an open pit. Don’t know about you, but that doesn’t quite conjure up Yuletide images here. This can be a tough time for expats. Business people or diplomats who go to great lengths to re-create Christmas in far flung places that don’t usually deck the halls. Miranda Kennedy found some Americans looking for the holiday spirit in New Delhi.


MIRANDA KENNEDY: Pickings are slim at the nursery for the third day in a row. Kris Easter and her husband David Kennedy — no relation to me — are hunting for a Christmas tree.

KRIS EASTER: There’s a lot of branches showing with no green. Don’t you think? On the tall one. This is probably the most limited choice that we’ve had since we’ve been here.

This is their fifth Christmas in India. So the Kennedys are used to making compromises because they live overseas. But they’re running out of patience this evening. Their kids have been waiting all week to decorate the tree. But they haven’t found one yet that meets their kids’ criteria: to be taller than they are.

EASTER: This is probably as tall as my oldest son. Its about 5 foot 2 or 3. This one though, look at those pitiful little branches at the bottom. Anyways — it’s about the best you can do in the middle of the desert.

Christmas pines are not to be found in hot, dry Delhi. David says they should probably invest in a plastic tree that they could pack up and carry around the world with them. He works for the U.S. state department, and he’s posted to a new country every few years.

DAVID KENNEDY: But I, you know, I still think half the fun of it is finding a tree. We love doing that every year — whether we’re here, in Seattle or in Moscow. Pakistan we got trees. You can find a tree, it might not be the perfect tree.

Finally, the Kennedys arrive home with not one, but two trees, and they are definitely not perfect.

EASTER: Do you like it Alex?

ALEX: It looks like a bush. [laugh] Yeah, but it looks like a bush.

EASTER: Its not quite the right shape is it.

ALEX: No

[CHRISTMAS MUSIC]

Still, Alex, who’s ten, agrees to help his brothers decorate the Christmas shrubbery. David pours some wine and puts in a tape of Christmas songs.

The room is full of cheer — until Kris plugs in a strand of Christmas lights made in India.

[POP!]

KENNEDY: You ok? Uh-oh. [LAUGH]

That blows a fuse and all the lights go out.

EASTER: Give me that other strand and see if it works.

More than an hour later, they get the electricity back and some Christmas lights up. Kris looks dolefully at the boxes of ornaments that won’t fit on their scrawny trees. They’ve collected decorations from all the different countries they’ve lived in. And some are from home — like a Snoopy in a Santa hat.

EASTER: The first year that we were gone, I think my mom, she sort of parceled out some of the ornaments, like the favorite ones, and she sent them to us so we had stuff to decorate our Christmas tree with [LAUGH]. Yeah it was really sweet.

MIRANDA KENNEDY: She sent you Snoopy to Pakistan?

EASTER: Yes. You’re sort of like well why could I be attached to this stupid little Snoopy, but…

Kris admits Snoopy isnt the only Christmas tradition she’s attached to. The turkey is another important one. The bird is not native to the Asian subcontinent. But that doesn’t mean it’s not to be had. It just takes some doing.

EASTER: We’re gonna go look at our turkeys, boo

Bright and early the next morning, Kris and David pile the kids into their land cruiser and heads to an organic farm outside the city. Ian, who’s 12, tells his younger brothers that they should probably be a little nervous about the hunt.

IAN: You haven’t seen, like, a chicken and then, like, have it killed and then eat it.

But he’s so excited to see the huge white birds strutting around the farm, that he forgets any carnivore’s guilt.

EASTER: Look at this one. Oh there’s a turkey, oh my god!

ALEX: Can we eat that turkey?

IAN: He’s a beautiful turkey.

David and Kris don’t actually slaughter their own turkey today. But they do the next best thing. They choose a fat 10-pound bird to be delivered to their house, ready for the oven, the day before Christmas.

In New Delhi, I’m Miranda Kennedy for Marketplace.

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