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Christmas is in the air!
A very special occasion in four acts

Act one: The Christmas tree and a parcel from Füssen

Only on „our mountain“, which lies next to the boy’s home
and which we call „heaven’s door“ due to the magnificent view you have from there, the pines which are so unpopular in Sri Lanka can still be found. Planted there by the British they have conquered many mountain ridges until the last government decided to eliminate them. Demonized as tree of the colonialists, real combats started against them and people cut them down or burnt them on a large-scale.

Also in the Koslanda region, our mountain is their last retreat. Every year I cut a Christmas tree there for each of the children’s houses. It’s hard to choose between the many trees, because despite rocks and dryness the pines literally spring up like mushrooms.
In the village nothing indicates that today is Christmas Eve, it seems to be a normal working day and like every Saturday the market stands are set up along the road. I am relieved that the police let me drive on, because although it is allowed to destroy pines it is not allowed to transport them.
Finally, the “main” Christmas tree is put up – this year in the main building, which we accordingly call main house. Lots of things had to be prepared, gifts wrapped, sweets baked and the house emptied to make space for more than 80 children who need that space to celebrate properly.
And then it arrived: the Christmas parcel from Lenka Rühle from Füssen, like every year since 2005 – this year exactly on time. New angels, Christmas decoration and German lebkuchen.

Thank you antie Lenka!

Act two: The journey of Christ Child

I have put on my best clothes – a suit – that I haven’t worn since the opening of the cultural centre we had built in Galle four years ago. I am relieved that it still fits and that neither rats nor moths had nibbled on it. A blue long-sleeved shirt, a red necktie, as soon as I put on my jacket the sweat starts streaming down my body. My Sunday shoe have been occupied, the left one by a spider family and the right one by several geckos. I send them out to find a new home and then clean the shoes.
There is a big hallo when I arrive at the meeting point in front of the moonlight house. So magnificently dressed the children very rarely see their Lokuthatha. After all, it’s a special day today. The big girls who have finished their school exams a few days ago have decorated the Christmas tree for the chapel and solemnly illuminated the chapel with many candles.

I have brought an approximately 30 cm long Christ Child, a gift from auntie Lenka from 2011, with me and placed it on the table. I take my children with me on a journey back to a time long past, but a rather familiar situation. You are not at home, you are in a foreign country, you have little or no money, the mother is heavily pregnant. Nobody wants you, and they show that you’re only disturbing, so you are hiding in a stable. We all know this story very well and tonight it will be told many hundred million times. Here, however, this story becomes a new significance, because almost all the children who are watching me through the light of the candles have experienced what poverty and being homeless means and how it feels when nobody wants you. Before God came to the kings, he went to the poor, the shepherds. Of course, we all know that, but why then consumption has become the major factor on Christmas?
Then our procession starts, the tropical night already shows the first shadows. Each child is supposed to carry a candle back, to protect the light. The winds stops and almost all candles reach the moonlight house, 200 meters uphill, still burning. Everybody is hungry now, because we only had a late breakfast, Christ Child waits and smiles sympathetically.
We leave the biggest candle burning, when the meal is over, we will light all the other candles again with it. Our Christ Child that has been carried proudly by the 18 year-old Chamilla who looks like 14 and thinks like a 10 year old, is now carried from one children’s house to the other. The Child would surely look amazed at the Christmas
splendor, which our child minders and the children have created in their houses. In the wisdom house where our little ones are living, there is even snow slowly falling – hundreds of white cotton flocks are hanging on thin threads.

After that, our procession reaches the main house. In the afternoon Nauaraj and Shanta, the workers who really know how to climb, have attached a string of lights at dizzying heights to the tree in front of the house. I press the light button and a murmur excitement fills the air: Welcome to the distribution of presents!

Act three: Christmas party

„Come all ye children…“ The 16-year old Niroshani who has spent 14 years in the children’s village knows some German Christmas songs – and she is good at singing, a rather rare gift here in contrast to the common talent for crafting. Yes, they are all here they have all come to the manger and to the Christmas tree, which Anka had decorated. The school graduates from this year differ pleasantly from those of the last year. They join in everything and they really take part in this family celebration and do not only act pubescent.

The kids between 11 and 14 from the moonlight house perform the Nativity scene. King Herod likes laughing and does it very often but at the same time, he commands his soldiers to kill all the newborn babies. The Christ child is lucky, because the bad king’s command occurs prior to the child’s birth. Thus, God’s son escapes the massacre, at least in our play. Unfortunately, the greedy guesthouse owners close their hearts and doors and in our play too, the shepherds arrive before the king, perhaps because the bad king Herod needs to change his clothes to become a good king and that takes its time in the darkness outside.
Our child minder Bawani from the boy’s house on Hill Top has come with the boys and they are part of the Little Smile family although they are living a few kilometers uphill. Her now 18-year old twins Mikel and Robin have come too. My God, how small they were when they came here many years ago looking for shelter. I sing a few Christmas songs and accompany myself with the guitar I bought for myself on my 16th birthday, after that the computer takes over the ceremonial acoustic part because there is still a lot of work to do.

It follows the distribution of the presents. Almost 100 people get, nicely wrapped, the things they have chosen for themselves on numerous shopping tours organized by Anka – clothes and other colorful things. Additionally everyone gets a little package with sweets, virtually a taste of the big cake party.

While on TV „Kevin alone at home“ is protecting his package against attacks of two bad boys, more and more children happily fall asleep. Thanks to Kevin, the good wins at least on TV, something that worldwide was rather scarcely the case in 2016. Most of the children are sleeping in the meantime, but not in heavenly peace as the Christmas-song says, because it is never completely quiet in our mountain jungle and particularly not at night. Through such a night full of jungle sound, I am going to drive Bawani and the boys now back to their homes on Hill Top. From there I can see our Christmas tree shining in front of the main house although the night is very dark – a tiny but bright dot in the endless darkness down there. I look up to the starry sky and it feels as if I could see my mother smiling at me from above. Merry Christmas!

Act four: Memories

Christmas Day is on a Sunday, somehow a “free day” also in Sri Lanka. Of course, the children are full of energy and ready for action. They come to the morning prayers wearing the clothes they found under the Christmas tree last night. Good job Anka! Year after year, I wonder where she finds all these clothes, cause on my frequent visits to our nearby village Wellawaya I only see dust.
Today all workers come with their families, a constant coming and going, preparing tea and offer cake. For lunch we wanted to cook something special, but the kids want – right – rice, at least I can convince them to make veggie rice.
Then a little calm returns, after all it was unusually late for us all yesterday. Anka browses through our homepage and shows me a text I had written long long ago. Line after line memories about the thoughts and feelings I had 15 years ago, are coming up – more and more colorful and vivid. It’s true, memories are a very special treasure.
I celebrated Christmas Eve 2001 in Eichstätt, but my thoughts rapidly went to the children’s village in the mountains of Sri Lanka.   
 
 Dear Little Smile family,

I sit here in the snow-covered Bavaria and think of you. It is one ò clock here and 6 ò clock in Sri Lanka, somehow the best time of the day. I am very quiet and can almost hear you. You are performing your plays, dramas and songs, and Erandi surely plays the organ, Maheshi dances and Niluka and many others are singing…Namal will certainly put that typical smile on his face when his part is over. I can so well imagine all this, and even if you don’t see me, I am there, have sent my spirit to you. In Germany, we celebrate Christmas Eve today. Birgit surely has told you all about it. Me too, I would like to tell you a little story and ask Bandula to translate it for you:
When I was five, I rehearsed kind of a play in the kindergarden shortly before Christmas. A girl and a boy dressed up as Mary and Joseph are walking from door to door asking to let them get into the warm house. Joseph is literally begging and desperately asking people to let his heavily pregnant wife in, but no one offers them shelter. I got the role of the man who refused to let them enter because they had no money. Everything was sung and I still know all the words and the tune, as if it were only yesterday. When I return in January, I will sing it to you. But let’s go on with the story: The first man had no space and sent Mary and Joseph away. The second man – me – asked them how much they could pay. Since the two had no money, I also had to send them away. I had no problems with my role and learnt my text and the melody very well. Then we performed the play at the Christmas Eve mass for children. We were all very excited and of course, nobody wanted to make a mistake in front of so many people. Mary and Joseph went to the first door and were sent away. They went on to the second house where I was waiting and all of a sudden, I realized what I was expected to do: I had to send Mary who was about to give birth to the Christ Child away and expose her to the cold. IMPOSSIBLE!
I didn’t want to do that, I could not do it. I felt numb, I couldn’t say a word. The girl who played Mary whispered the text to me, Joseph also whispered it trying to help me, but I wanted to let the two in and not send them away as the script said, so what could I say?

I guess everyone must have felt ashamed for the silly little boy who forgot his lines and brought the performance to a standstill. I also felt ashamed and stood in front of all these people with a bright-red head. Stuttering I asked Mary and Joseph finally what they could pay and when they said nothing sent them away.

Today you are all my children and I open the gate and my heart widely for you. And I have built together with Bandula houses to take you all in. But since love does not only mean to open the door, but also to take care of the beloved ones, we also built a school, a workshop and your playground.

You are no guests here, you are Little Smile and you are my family, my children, whom I love very much

 

Your Lokuthaththa