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Rowls Brand New Christmas
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Rowl has just moved to a new house in a new country.
Everything there seems strange and different, he is afraid he may not have Christmas this year.
Will the festival bring joy to him like it did for all previous years?
This was Rowl's first Christmas in India and he was all alone in his new room.
It was the festive season alright, but Rowl could barely feel the Christmas spirit over the strong smell of their freshly painted new house.
He missed the crackling fireplace and the snowy footprints on the doormat that he had grown used to.
He missed wearing his Special Christmas Sweater and picking a Christmas tree.
The new house in India was different.
It did not need a fireplace because the city he stayed in was warm and humid all round the year.
It was cooler now than in the summer but they still needed to keep the ceiling fan on and Rowl hated how its breeze teased the corners of books and papers that he was reading or drawing on. Wearing his Special Christmas Sweater would just feel uncomfortable in the humid heat.
Worst of all, with no snow to ride on and no chimney to climb down; he doubted if Santa Claus would bring him presents like he had done unfailingly for all those years.
So Rowl sat down grumpily at the kitchen table that early December morning, disappointed that he was going to miss Christmas this year.
Just then, there was a knock at the door.
Rowl's mother rushed to open it.
"I've got it!"
It was Rowl's father holding up a potted tree, about as tall as Rowl was.
"C'mon Rowl; here's our tree!" he yelled out to Rowl, who was still peeking from the kitchen.
Rowl came to the hall where his father had just placed the potted tree.
It did not look like the other Christmas trees he had seen.
"Is this our Christmas tree, dad?" Rowl asked.
"Yes Rowl, this is a Golden Cypress tree; a Special Indian Christmas tree." his father answered.
Rowl touched its spiny leaves; it did feel like a Christmas tree.
"I've got a box of decorations too, and after Christmas we get to keep our tree in the garden and by next Christmas, it will have grown taller, as you will."
Rowl was excited to hear this as he wanted to watch the tree grow.
'What an excellent companion to grow up with!' he thought, echoing his parents' words about their childhoods.
Soon Rowl's mother brought out the box that his father was talking about and the decoration process began; one tiny bell on the branch here, one sparkly angel on the branch there and finally, the huge star on the top with tiny blinking lights in it.
Rowl's father had even bought white, fluffy cotton wool to lay around the tree to make it look like fresh snow.
Rowl was beginning to feel the joy arise inside.
On Christmas Eve Rowl woke up to the smell of something baking in the oven.
He could sniff his way into the kitchen even with his eyes closed.
"Good morning Rowl, you are right on time," his mother said on seeing him in the kitchen as she laid down the baking tray on the table.
Rowl immediately recognised the smell.
"Fruitcake!" he shouted excitedly.
He could barely wait for it to cool down, and skipped around in anticipation like he always used to. When a slice was finally handed to him he went in for a huge mouthful.
It tasted different, the flavour of sour-sweet Indian cherry and freshly grated coconut burst in his mouth and he loved its newness.
'Maybe we will have Christmas this year after all.' he thought.
That afternoon the family were invited to a Christmas-eve lunch party in the neighbourhood. Mother baked and wrapped a second batch of fruitcake before they headed to the venue.
As they arrived at the party hall Rowl saw a huge Christmas tree, like the Special Indian Christmas tree they had at home.
It was being put up near the entrance.
Inside the party hall there were sparkly tinsel and golden stars hanging down from the ceiling. Christmas carols were played aloud and Rowl found himself singing along with familiar tunes before he had even remembered their titles.
When the Christmas Tree outside was ready to be decorated, all the children at the party were summoned and supplied with tiny bells, stars, wreaths and angels with little hoops on them to hang them from the branches.
Rowl had a merry time decorating the tree, along with his new friends from the neighbourhood. After a dinner accompanied by sweet barfi, kulkuls and brown plum-cake; the children went around singing carols, just like Rowl had been doing all these years.
Rowl fell asleep early that night, tired from all the singing and frolicking.
The 25th of December was finally here.
Rowl's parents woke him up with a huge "Merry Christmas" and led him to the hall where their Special Indian Christmas Tree stood.
There, right at the foot of the decorated tree, were colourfully wrapped presents, undoubtedly dropped off there by Santa Clause when Rowl was fast asleep.
"Did Santa really come?" Rowl asked as he skipped towards the spread of wrapped boxes.
"Of course he did, Rowl" his mother replied. "Santa never leaves anyone out during Christmas" his father added cheerfully.
The first box Rowl opened had reindeer patterned cotton pyjamas that suited warm weather perfectly. Wearing them made him feel all Christmassy inside.
Here in the new house, with the ceiling fan rustling the hanging confetti spreading love and joy throughout the room, the smell of fresh paint disappeared altogether.
Rowl finally felt at home again.
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