“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.” ―Norman Vincent Peale.
The moment the spirit of Christmas took a hold of me, it was so surreal and magical that I can honestly say Christmas is now my favorite festival.
Let’s back up
It all started when my best friend and I felt nostalgic and binge-watched some classic Christmas movies. The greens and the reds, the reindeers and Santa Clause, the snow and the angels, the Christmas tree and fairy lights – they are all just so mesmerizing and magical.
As Christmas is moderately celebrated in Delhi, I decided that this year, I would go to a place where I could find the Christmas spirit. And I could only think of one place –Mizoram. There, Christmas is celebrated with full spirit and enthusiasm, according to my friend Kimi, whom I studied with in Delhi back in my school days.
So, I called Kimi. An hour later, my December was booked.
To the Land of the Lushais
The flight from Delhi, with a layover at Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport, Kolkata, was uneventful. But once the plane descended towards Lengpui Airport, I looked out of my small window to the welcoming sight of greens and rolling hills. It truly was beautiful.
After collecting our luggage and providing our Inner Line Permit, which is required by Indian citizens (not international tourists) who are non-Mizos to enter Mizoram, to the airport people, we were greeted outside by Kimi and her brother. On our way to the Tourist Lodge, Chaltlang, I noticed that the traffic points (there are no traffic signals, only traffic police) in each locality were decorated like winter wonderlands. There were big Santa Clauses, reindeers, snowmen, angels, some Frozen (the movie) themed. “Every year the Mizoram Tourism Department organizes a contest to see which locality has the best theme and decorations. The winner gets Rs. 5,00,000 ( around $7,000), while the 2nd runner up and 3rd runner up get Rs. 3,00,000 (around $4,000) and Rs. 2,00,000 (around $3,000) each. It’s mostly to keep the Christmas spirit alive in the Mizos,” said Kimi.
After dining on Mizo traditional dinner at the Tourist Lodge, which consists of boiled rice, smoked pork, bai, dal, and boiled vegetables, we called it a night as we would have a long day the next day.
A winter adventure
The next day, we headed towards Ailawng, a small village where KhuangcheraPuk, a 162-meter long cave, sits. For some whose highest adrenaline rush came from a roller coaster ride, the experience of entering and exiting the cave was on a whole new level. Where some parts of the caves were big, some were really small that we had to crawl, squat, jump and climb. It was dark and eerie, to say the least. We needed a lot of help. I was filled with trepidation. But when I saw the light at the end of the tunnel, I was overcome with immense relief. I can honestly say that it’s an experience I’d never forget and brag about for a very long time.
Next, we headed toward Reiek Tlang, a popular tourist spot, near Ailawng. We trekked for about 45 minutes to the tops and let me tell you, the up-hill walk was completely worth it. The view of miles and miles of lush greenery from the top was absolutely awe-inspiring. We chatted over a picnic. Later that night, Kimi booked tents for us where we slept on top of the mountain under the starry night sky enwrapped by the many blankets to fight the winter chill.
Off to Baktawng – a place where a world record holder lives
Two days after returning from Reiek Tlang and almost becoming a borderline shopaholic, we headed towards Baktawng village where Ziona Chana and his 39 wives live. “He is the leader of Chana Pawl, a Christian sect. What’s interesting is that all his wives are happy and in love with him. He gives so much back to the village. He even built a stadium for them,” said Kimi. Unfortunately, we did not get to meet the man of the hour. We did get to see the famous purple house or his castle. We interacted with some of the villagers and learned a lot about their traditions. Overall, it was an insightful trip.
Journey to Lunglei and Champhai
On the 6-hour drive from Aizawl to Lunglei in Kimi’s brother’s Chevrolet Beat, I was once again blessed with the views of the picturesque sceneries along the way. From the green trees to the water cascading down the hills to the clear blue skies, I felt like I caught glimpses of heaven. Upon reaching our destination, we headed straight towards Khawnglung Wildlife Sanctuary. Wandering through the faded green grass, I count myself lucky that I was able to spot some deer and wild boars. We returned to the town where Kimi’s relatives were more than happy to host us in their home.
Biding adieu to Lunglei, we traveled towards Champhai. The journey took us more than half a day. It was evening by the time we neared the town. The blue-orange skies and the natural splendor lush green valleys were simply enchanting. It sure was a captivating sight to behold. We checked into Hotel Chawngthu, an inviting hotel, had dinner and crashed for the night.All in all, it was an experience for a lifetime. I got to learn so much about the rich history the state has to offer.
It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas
It was on the 23rd that we returned to Aizawl. It was a delightful sight to see every corner of the streets decorated in the colors of Christmas. I could feel the magic all around me – kids sitting on Santa’s lap, parents trying to capture the perfect family portrait in front of the trees, laughter everywhere – it was
On the 24th, Kimi took us to a Christmas Eve party at her friend’s place where we drank, ate and exchanged gifts. I got a snow globe with Santa and Rudolf, the reindeer inside it. I loved it. It now proudly sits on the dresser in my room.
On the 25th, we attended a Christmas church service. The Church was beautifully decorated with lights, angels and a really big Christmas tree adorned by Poinsettias. The speaker spoke about the birth of Jesus Christ and the purpose of his life. After the service, we had a light refreshment of Christmas cake, tea, and some biscuits. Later, we all sat around Kimi’s living room near the Christmas tree and sang Christmas songs (at least I tried) while her brother played the guitar. I was filled with warmth and happiness throughout the day. I was glad that everyone I met made me feel so welcomed. I love how they could easily include me and my friend in their schedule. I got to know the true meaning of ‘Tlawmngaihna’ (hospitable, kind, unselfish and helpful to others), which Mizos are known for.
On the 26th, we visited all the well-decorated traffic points and took many pictures. I had so much fun sitting on model carriages, trains, sleds, sleighs, Santa’s lap, standing near a snowman, Elsa and Anna, while they took my pictures. It definitely brought the child in me out.
Back to reality
On the 28th of December, we landed at Indira Gandhi International Airport. On my drive back to my house, I reminisced each and every little thing I did during my time in Mizoram. It surprised me that I never encountered any dull moment.