What does Christmas look like when you have a living God?


The other day I shared Preetika’s story in What does a Hindu Christmas look like?

Then I learnt that there are different levels under Hinduism. Shaynil Lalla taught me this. He explained to me that one could approach this in a hierarchical manner as you would Christianity with it’s many different religions and churches under that broad category. His example was; there’s Social Media, then there’s Twitter under that. Shaynil is BAPS Swaminarayan (Hindu>Gujarati>BAPS Swaminarayan – get it?)

Swaminarayans are Hindus too. They are different in that they have a living guru who they worship. Similar to Hare Krishna’s, who are Hindu, but worship one of the Hindu Gods Krishna.

Here is Shaynil’s story:

Shaynil Lalla
Shaynil Lalla

I am @Shaynil in the Twitterverse. Real name Shaynil Lalla. I am a management consultant working at a large international consulting firm. My core expertise is in Financial Services and thus I spend most of my time across the big 4 banks working on varying projects in Retail and Business Banking. I have a beautiful wife who I married in January this year. [Congrats to you both! – Mother] She works a sales representative at a large printing and packaging company and assists in looking after key accounts in the labels division.

I was born and raised into the Hindu religion – born into a Gujarati family to the most amazing parents, Shashi Lalla (dad) and Naina Lalla (mum). My parents were instrumental in ensuring me and my sister had a good upbringing filled with our Indian culture. Over time I have become a follower of the BAPS Swaminarayan organisation. Me and my wife spend most of our free time in activities at the temple and its to no surprise that most of our friend network are part of the same temple as well. – also interesting to note we were born into vegetarian families so yes, we do not know what we are missing and we are perfectly healthy not eating any meat, seafood or eggs 🙂

For us the December Christmas period is just a nice holiday period for us – again i say this is for us – we don’t put up any Christmas trees or celebrate any of the events during this period but rather enjoy the time off work.

Shaynil - and wifeThese days off are generally spent with friends and families catching up over a braai (being strict vegetarian since birth) we still do enjoy the veg braai. It has been traditional that in our family we all get together (aunts, uncles, and all kids) for a braai. So its an ideal time when everyone is off from work and just spending good quality family time together

For me, the unfortunate thing is that when it comes to our traditional festivals (i.e. Diwali, New Year) we are forced to take this out of our annual leave which isn’t fair i think – as we should qualify for religious leave. So i rather much trade in my Christmas leave day for being off on Diwali.

With the family we haven’t had any integration problem its always just been a long December holiday for us. Growing up my dad had clothing businesses so this meant us spending our holidays helping at the shop and Christmas day was a day to relax from the hustle and bustle from the shop.

We generally get together as a family and have a braai – so this is involves uncles and aunts coming home for a braai with our immediate family (Granny, Grandfather before he passed away, my dad, my mum and my wife).

One of Shaynil's Guru's.
Shaynil’s Guru

Overall we don’t celebrate any Christmas functions, and at home we don’t even exchange the traditional “Merry Christmas” greeting – we do however respect others celebrating. Interestingly when you tell people about Diwali they see it as “Oh, that’s like your Christmas?” and I always say no – because I don’t think people truly understand exactly what these festivals are about.

Our Guru is our world, our inspiration – every thing we do and achieve is through his grace.

Thank you Shaynil for sharing your story with me and allowing me to publish it here on my blog.

I learnt a couple of things from Shaynil through his story:

  • Braai’ing really is a South African national event!
  • I get that we, South Africa, follow a Christian agenda but how does that translate to effectiveness of our Constitution? Shouldn’t different religions be able to choose which religious days of obligation they get to take off as part of their annual leave? Yes, I realise this will be a terrible headache for HR departments everywhere … but, such is our life. For me that would mean actively choosing to follow Christian/Catholic holidays over my ethnic Chinese holidays…
  • Here is a link to a site where you can read up more about BAPS Swaminarayan.

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