I enjoy learning the way countries around the world celebrate Christmas! For those of you that live in the global south, the idea of a cold, snowy Christmas is such a foreign concept. I know of one family that lived in the southern hemisphere that would close all the windows, shut the blinds, and max out the air-conditioning unit for the day. I know of another family that had swimming as an annual Christmas day tradition.
As an adult, I went and visited my mom in Singapore over the Christmas holidays. It was very hot, and not at all what I was used to. Singapore also decorates its downtown area with lots of Christmas statues, blow up characters, and Christmas colors. I was amused at some of the characters that were set out, because many of them had absolutely nothing to do with Christmas. They didn’t look like anything you would expect to see. But, the Singaporeans loved all their Christmas decorations. I have heard from many of my Filipino TCK friends about all the lavish and crazy decorations that you would see around the cities of the Philippines during the Christmas season.
As a child, I spent many years in the Netherlands. I love the Dutch Christmas traditions. One of my favorite traditions is Sinterklaas Dag (day). The night before, every child would put out their wooden shoes, boots, or tennis shoes – whatever they had! Saint Nick would visit overnight, and fill their shoes with goodies. The Dutch tradition is to give a chocolate letter, with the letter being the initial of your first name. Those chocolate letters were not small, and were absolutely awesome. Although I am now in the United States, I always love getting my chocolate letters for Christmas. It is tradition! The Dutch also had parades with Sinterklaas, where his helpers would throw out these delicious cookies into the crowd, called pepernoten. They gave out other stuff as well, but those little treats were amazing!
As I write this, we are on the eve of Sinterklaas Dag. Each one of us have different expectations for Christmas. Some of us expect it to be hot, others are praying for snow. But, as I sit and think about Christmas, the true meaning of the joy that comes through the celebration of the birth of Christ is what makes this season so amazing! We use terms like “joy” and “peace” when we celebrate Christmas. Those words encapsulate the meaning of Christmas because they represent the life that the baby Christ brought to earth.
The other joy that we have during the Christmas season is family. The joy of being able to spend time with the people we love makes this time of the year so fulfilling! We develop all of our own traditions with our families, whether it be attending the local Christmas parades, going swimming, or going to see some kind of a musical or drama. Those traditions become a meaningful part of Christmas! So, as you are preparing for Christmas, what will you do to make it meaningful for your family? What traditions are important to you? How will you take the time to mark the moment, besides the giving of gifts? Take time this December to mark the moment with the people that you love. Make memories that will last a lifetime. Don’t allow the craziness of the season to supercede the joy that should accompany this season.
It is also important that we take a moment and pray for families that are spread out far and wide. We know that wherever we are located in the world, as globally mobile families, we can learn great things this season about our local culture. But, the challenge can be that we are so far away from family that we love dearly! Many young adults will be celebrating this season on a different continent than their parents and/or siblings. Many college students will be celebrating with relatives, but many will not be with any family. Let’s remember to pray that God’s hope, joy and peace will flow through all of us, so that no matter who we come in contact with, we will be able to bring life and hope to all those that we meet.
Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”