No Christmas cheer

While December brings with it the spirit of Christmas, for the capital’s homeless, survival in the freezing cold is celebration

A homeless child selling Christmas toys and Santa caps

With the onset of winter chill, Santa Claus sets out for his journey to usher in happiness with presents for children, bringing in Christmas. December is the time when homes, markets and offices are decked up with lights and people dressed up as Santa Claus distribute gifts across the city.

However, for the capital’s homeless, for whom survival itself is daunting task, Santa Claus is one who helps them gets through Delhi’s biting cold.

“For us Santa is the person who offers us a blanket on a cold night,” says Raziya, who lives with her three children on the streets of Delhi and sells roses at a metro station. “We don’t know how the rich celebrate this festival. For us, a day when we get two square meals and a blanket to cover ourselves is worth celebrating,” she says.

A few lanes away, homeless children await outside restaurants for people to give them food. “Santa means those who come in big cars and distribute blankets to us,” says one of them.

On Christmas Eve, a red-suited man, riding in his “one-horse open sleigh” drawn by eight reindeer, arrives at homes to bring in optimism and cheer.

The origins of Santa date back to Turkey in 280 A.D., when Saint Nicholas, a monk, went around helping the poor and sick. The monk donated his entire fortune to the poor. On one occasion, he saved three sisters for grave misfortune by paying for their dowries. The saint was revealed to be a protector of children and sailors.

Thirty-three-year-old Naresh Kumar sells Santa caps and Christmas toys on the streets. “My family and I sell Christmassy items on the road. During Holi and Diwali, we sell colours and candles respectively,” he says.

Meanwhile his wife Gauri says, “No one is buying our stuff. We are just going here and there to sell these toys and caps, but no buyers turn out yet, we have invested three thousand rupees, this amount is big for us. We have three children surviving barely by making one time of food,”

In Connaught Place, four-year-old Krishna sells balloons, while his Parents sell Christmas toys and caps. “Mere papa kehte hai mai ek santa claus hu jo doosre bacho ko tohfei dete hai. (My father says that I’m a Santa Claus who gives presents to other kids),” says Krishna.

His father Arun, 34, says, “My son once asked me, should I also wear that red dress? These red dress caps and gifts are available in big shops here. So I said – You yourself are a Santa Claus who gives presents to these children.”

A girl, dressed up as a Santa Claus, hugs a child
A salesman dressed up as a Santa Claus
A man sells Christmas caps and masks in the streets of Delhi
A boy sells all things Christmas on the road

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