December is one of the busiest months of the year for most people in the western world. The hustle and bustle of the city is intensified as people shop for Christmas presents and prepare for the new year ahead.
ISKCON devotees are also out in abundance, selling their literature and meeting people who come from long distances into the city center. This December, Hare Krishna devotees in Sydney also brought the festive chanting of Krishna’s names (Harinama) to their city’s streets.
The Southern Hemisphere had offered up, as per usual, a sunny Holiday Season in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Despite the festive panic, everyone seemed to appreciate the enthusiasm and sweetness of the public kirtan party. The ladies coreographed their dancing in colourful saris at the front of the procession, followed by the men playing a variety of instruments such as mridanga, karatala, accordian, and djembe. Other devotees handed out invitations to upcoming festivals in the area featuring Indradyumna Swami’s premier performance group Le Carnaval Spiritual, as well as gifts of nicely packaged sweets and fruits which had been offered to the Sydney temple deities, Sri Sri Radha Gopinatha.
You can also find large gatherings of people in one place on Christmas Day itself. That is, if you know where to look! Bondi Beach was the Christmas destination for the Harinama group, and although the weather was a little cooler, thousands of people flocked to Sydney’s most famous beach for their Christmas swim, picnic, and party. Last year a photo of the Christmas Harinama procession made it into the Sydney Morning Herald, Australia’s biggest selling newspaper, and later footage of the same Harinama was shown on Australia’s popular TV show “Bondi Rescue.”
This year proved to be a little different. Hundreds of people gathered to dance and sing with the devotees as usual. Bulgarian National Television (BNT) were documenting how people celebrate Christmas in different countries and cultures around the world, and for their piece on Australia, they showed footage of the devotees chanting Hare Krishna at Bondi Beach. It was shown on Christmas Day during their prime time viewing. The combination of color, music and festive joy made such good footage that not only was it shown on Bulgarian National Television, but it was also aired in Slovenia and Croatia over the next couple of days.
“Every day is a celebration for us,” commented Harinama chanter Madhavendra Puri Dasa. “But this time of year is so nice because everyone else is in such an open and festive mood as well.”
On New Year’s Eve, as 2009 prepared to become simply a memory, thousands of people gathered at Sydney Harbour. Yet again the Kirtana party weaved its way around, taking people dancing and singing along with it. This was to be the last Harinama of 2009; and at midnight, a grand fireworks display signaled the beginning of 2010.