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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Unwrapping the Holidays

Traditions are like gift wrap.
Every time a couple leaves and cleaves, a new family is formed and they begin to dress up their own traditions, including those special traditions focused around the holidays. It may be difficult to create your own style if you are a family that lives close by both sets of parents, having to share time between families on holidays. Yet, living far away has it's challenges too! Matter of fact, living in another culture, a different hemisphere and far away from grandparents and other family has deeply impacted not only how our family celebrates the holidays, but how we think about them.

First of all, holidays come wrapped in all different colors and sizes in other countries. For one, in the Southern Hemisphere, Christmas is during summer... and it's HOT! (just stop and think of how many North American traditions have to do with being cold outside!) Thanksgiving is hardly heard of here in Peru while I think New Years is bigger here than in the US. Easter, Mother's Day and Independence Day are quite popular in Latin America and are celebrated with much ado. Even birthdays are made special, in that the birthday girl is so lucky she gets to prepare a meal for all her visitors! (I, the Queen of October 19th, admittedly have trouble with that one!)

Now, I grew up probably similar to the majority of you, thinking that the winter holidays were all about family, turkey, eating as much as possible, Christmas trees, decorations, lights, prettily wrapped presents (and lots of them!) and having a day full of as many pleasant things as possible. Well? Isn't that what most of us thought, or maybe still think? It is certainly what commercialism would have us believe. However, as a grown up I've certainly had a Holiday or two that were not all they were wrapped up to be! How often do we realize, that many people in the world have nothing and do nothing on our “most important days of the year”. I know, it seems exaggerated, but it's true.

Somehow, our experiences have taught us that Holidays are more than all that.
But if Holidays are not all about traditions, then what?

Our families are far away, the cranberry sauce comes airmail if at all, and there's absolutely NO hope of a white Christmas... until recently, turkeys weren't to be found before the middle of December, and in the early years, unless you brought or made your own decorations, including your own artificial tree (a somewhat recent luxury), you'd be out of luck there too. So, if holiday fun is based solely on the external, we should go cry in the corner every year during the holidays. But we don't. And here's why: that would be ridiculous. Oh, that and we've realized that holidays are a lot more than just the pretty wrappings. Sure, there can be a whole lot of fun involved, and over the years we have had some really special holidays here with our 'missionary family'. But, what we find under all that gift wrap is, that certain days are special because for us they have deeper meaning.

The treasure of Thanksgiving is a whole season to give thanks to God for all He has given us. The rest is the curly ribbon on top! And sure, we want to be thankful all year round, but having one day when we can REALLY remember... this is good for us! The same goes for Christmas, we unwrap the Gift of the God who keeps His promises, His Son who will someday come again! Of course we want to remember Him every day of the year, but why not be extra doubly reminded at Christmas?! Sure, we can do all of this without a whole lot of poof and floof. But, truth be told, all of us know that a little floof here and curly ribbon there is not going to hurt anyone. :) The floof simply serves to remind us...

Notice Stove Top stuffing, the pumpkin, olives and cranberry?! 
My mouth is watering. Whoever sent it a couple years ago, may they be forever blessed!

So, bring on the turkey and twinkly lights and the presents or whatever floof you've got and let's remember...
GOD is very very good! :)


Thomas and Lisa said...

I so agree with your thoughts. The holidays are so very different for us as missionaries in the Philippines than what we experienced in the Midwest surrounded by all our family and snow. So much of our traditions involved family and food. Our family is halfway around the world and most of the traditional foods are unavailable so we needed to come up with new traditions. We now look forward to reading the Christmas story and singing Christmas carols on the "white" sand 8 hours from our place. Gifts are not wrapped up with bright paper but the gift of memories of a week of the 6 of us together.

Blessings to your family,

Alisha said...

My birthday is October 19th too. Growing up, it always felt like my birthday was the initiation to all the holidays (and the rest of my family's birthdays). I loved it.

Alesha said...

Thank you Amy. This was so completely timely for me. God is so good! We are beginning our holidays here...AND talking with family about leaving the country. Bittersweet, but exciting times. Thanks again for writing this- I just wanted to let you know that it was really a blessing! :D

Penney Douglas said...

I have been learning to establish traditions and make memories to tie the strings of my children's hearts to our family. Some of us care more about such things than others, but I think they are affected whether they realize it or not by the things we do every year at a certain time. The Lord told His people to celebrate feasts at different times throughout the year so they could remember their history and His works in their lives. We are His people, and we use the holidays in the same way. They are always about Him, and they are celebrated in a fun, memorable way so that the children know that God is good and that we as a family love Him most of all.
All that to say, I agree with you. Great post!

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