December in Merlin Park (my grandmother's house where I spent a large part of my childhood holidays) used to be a very celebratory (and probably an expensive month for the grown-ups) for the extended Ray family. My father and his cousins (1st and 2nd) were quite close. So close, they were like siblings and my grandmother was the host of most of the family celebrations. Probably because she was the oldest surviving member of her generation.
I used to look forward to going to Kolkata in December. It was the month that all my father's cousins (and mine as well) travelled in from all over India and abroad, to celebrate and spend time with each other. As my grandmother got older and more bedridden, some of these celebrations moved to her house so she could be part of it. And she loved being hostess. There were lunches and teas at all the various aunts' and uncles' houses but I especially remember the birthday celebrations that were hosted in Merlin Park with what my grandmother called "high tea" that began around 5 in the evening with elaborate meals. I remember the camaraderie and the laughter. The presents and the spoiling.
My cousin, Anandajit, who celebrates a milestone birthday this year, always started the celebrations at Merlin Park all those years ago (he was the youngest then) with his birthday on 23rd, my father's eldest sister (my Pishipia - photographed here -God rest her soul) on 27th, my grandmother's sister on the 31st where everyone gathered before going their own way to their own New Year's celebrations. There were many more celebrations like the two siblings (my dad's cousins) in the Bose family on the 8th, my brother on the 5th. I am now realising all the other celebrations were for other birthdays, and anniversaries though I can't remember all of them or who they were for.
I miss those celebrations and gatherings especially now that the family are even more scattered as my generation (and the following ones) set up roots all over the globe. December for me is quite nostalgic especially this year as more and more of my father's cousins have gone.