Thursday, December 24, 2009

On spending the holidays "away from home"

Spending your first holiday in a new home? Or overseas?

This is my first Christmas in Russia. But I remember my first Thanksgiving here very well. Some missionaries invited me over for dinner. My hosts had cooked a turkey and mashed potatoes, but many of the Russian guests brought Russian salads that they had purchased on the way to the party. It was good food...but not what I was used to.

Even if you haven't moved, everything changes as seasons of life change. One year everyone is fighting over the decorations; the next year no one wants to help at all. One year everyone is up until 2am drinking eggnog; the next year they are all tired from the work week and want to go to bed early.

Therefore, it's important to adjust your expectations, and, even better, to come up with your own traditions that you can add to and change as you like, because they're yours! more/-

Recently, I watched "The Nativity Story" for the first time. As I watched the camels making their way across the sand, I thought to myself, this doesn't look at all like our Christmas scenes. Our traditions are all made up. We like them because we have taken ownership and made them personal.

There is nothing material that you absolutely HAVE to have in order to make a nice Christmas tradition. Wherever you are, in whatever circumstances, you can come up with your own idea and say "THIS is how I choose to celebrate Jesus' birth."

This may seem a little late, but...

For Advent, you can start on whatever date you like. Maybe 4 Sundays before Christmas, maybe Dec.1st, or maybe you don't have time until one week before Christmas.

Don't have time to physically gather together for Advent? You could leave Advent messages for roommates to find or send electronic messages to family and church members.

Who says you have to have a huge fir tree for Christmas? Decorate your houseplant, or make one out of paper! Or skip the tree altogether. Make up your own Christmas visuals. What images help you to meditate on Christ's birth and the events leading up to it?

Want to take a more serious approach and fast for some time before the holiday? Also an option.

Who cares if you can't buy an Advent calendar, Christmas lights, or the "right" colored candles? There is no right or wrong here!

A lack of molasses for gingerbread men doesn't have to spoil your Christmas. Make (or buy) your favorite treat that IS within limits.

With a little motivation, you can keep fond memories of the old traditions, make some new ones, and lose nothing!


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