“We, in India, also celebrate Christmas in quite a big way. Christianity was brought to India by Saint Thomas, the Apostle himself, in the year 52 AD. Thus, the faith was embraced by the people of India well before many European nations. Today, the number of Christians in India is about 24 million.” – President Pranab Mukherjee to Santa Claus in Finland
When President Pranab Mukherjee crossed the famed Arctic Circle on Thursday evening, becoming the first Indian head of state to do so, there was somebody even more famous eagerly awaiting to greet him with an unmistakable “Ho, ho, ho” deep-throated laugh.
A chubby and merry white-bearded man, clad in a red coat trimmed with white, surrounded with mischievous-looking elves, reindeers with huge antlers and, of course, “Jingle Bells” playing softly in the background.
Yes, Mukherjee also became the first Indian President to meet and greet the “original” Santa Claus in his “official home” on the Arctic Circle. Accompanied by daughter Sharmistha and his official delegation, Mukherjee crossed the Arctic Circle line on foot to enter Santa’s abode around 8 km north of Rovaniemi, which is the capital of Finland’s northernmost province Lapland and a huge tourist attraction for both wonder-struck children and their parents around the globe.
And as one would expect, out came the gifts even if Christmas was still far away, and the snow had barely begun to fall. Mukherjee surprised the gregarious Santa by presenting him with a marble Indian elephant. “Usually, I give presents. You have made my day,” said a beaming Santa.
Then, it was time for photographs with Santa. A smiling President and his visibly excited daughter sat on either side of Santa, who asked them if they would mind if he put his arms around them, and then did exactly that. “Namaste, give my love to the people of India,” said Santa.
Then, it was a free-for-all with the dozens of politicians, diplomats and bureaucrats in Mukherjee’s entourage scrambling to get pictures clicked with Santa like awestruck children. “He was humming Christmas carols quite well,” said BJP MP Babul Supriyo, himself a popular singer.
Mukherjee also took a stroll of Santa’s village, including the main post office that receives millions of letters from children around the globe, including from India. Mukherjee told Rovaniemi mayor Esko Lotvonen that it was “a memorable occasion” to be at the Arctic Circle — in the land of Santa Claus, so near to the North Pole.
“I had the privilege of meeting Santa Claus himself and confirming that he does exist! The people of Rovaniemi are fortunate to have the opportunity to live and work with him. It must feel like Christmas all the year through,” said Mukherjee.
“We, in India, also celebrate Christmas in quite a big way. Christianity was brought to India by Saint Thomas, the Apostle himself, in the year 52AD. Thus, the faith was embraced by the people of India well before many European nations. Today, the number of Christians in India is about 24 million,” he added. – Times of India, 17 October 2014
Ishwar Sharan observes
Contrary to President Mukherjee’s statement, St. Thomas did not come to India in 52 CE nor did Christianity reach India before it reached Europe—it reached Greece, Italy, and Spain in the 40s CE. Nor is it true that “the faith was embraced by the people of India” at any time. Mukherjee is only repeating the popular tale that has been repeated by Indian politicians before him to catch the Christian vote. This is to be expected of a Congress party man who idolises Chairman Deng Xiaoping and spends public money on a state tour to meet Santa Claus in a Finnish amusement park. Will his next official foray abroad be to Disneyland to meet Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck? Are Indians aware that it is just this kind of false and foolish statement by an Indian head of state that makes India a laughing-stock in Europe?