As you could guess, Christmas is much more low-key in Pune than in the US.  While there are 30 million Christians in India (it’s the country’s third-largest religion), that still ends up being less than 3% of the overall population.

In some ways the low-key thing is good.  The Christmas/New Year season starts so early in America these days that it’s easy to get a bit burned out by the time the actual holidays roll around.   On the other hand, the snow and lights and general festive spirit are definitely missed.

I managed to take some pics of signs of Christmas when I saw them:

And Farhana and I went to a local mall recently (the day after Christmas, actually) to see La La Land (very good) and it was about as decked out as our mall in Syracuse typically is (without the fighting).

And, the mall had a cool, backlit water fountain:

The kids were, of course, missing the tree (and what comes under it).  Trees were too expensive (still a cash-crunch here).  But we did a bit of last-minute shopping at a few neighborhood stores:

Eli was happy, despite not getting much of what was on his list:

On Christmas evening, we visited Baba in the hospital.  He’s doing much better:  out of the ICU and breathing easier.  The doctors think he’ll be home soon.

The weather is great here.  Warm and sunny during the day (around 80 – 85 degrees, I’d estimate – still haven’t mastered the Celsius-to-Farenheit conversions), but cool for sleeping at night.  It’s pretty similar to late spring in Syracuse, though without the rain (it has only rained once since the monsoons ended back in October, and that was barely a sprinkle).   Definitely not the Christmas weather we’re used to, but a nice change of pace.

The movie theater was pretty empty – perhaps because La La Land has been out for awhile here, now.

I noticed two further “movie experience” differences this time.  One:  every show here has a 15-minute intermission about halfway through (I thought it was just the Indian movies that did that, because they tend to be long).  I’m surprised this hasn’t caught on in the US.  It gives customers time to go to the bathroom, and it gives theaters the opportunity to sell more popcorn.  Win-win.

Two:  any time someone on screen is smoking (or drinking), a little anti-smoking warning pops up on the screen (like the sorts of warnings that show on cigarette packs and in anti-smoking ads).  This happens on Indian television, too.  I thought the US was overboard with anti-smoking messages, but it’s much more hard-core here.

I’m not sure how common smoking is here in India, though it’s definitely decreasing.  Anecdotally, it’s more common than in the US, but it doesn’t seem to be tremendously more so.  Smoking’s illegal in most public spaces, just like in NY state.  One big difference, though, is price.  A pack of cigarettes is still relatively inexpensive here.  Less than the cheapest price in the US (even from reservation smoke shops).

Wait, how did a Christmas post end up being about cigarettes?

To end on a lighter note, there was a leopard caught up the block from us recently:

And an interesting story on Pune’s St. Patrick’s Church in the paper recently:

And look at the twin sisters: