Dave and Honour are home from school and the holidays have officially begun. It still doesn’t really feel like Christmas but I’m not waiting for it or trying to make it happen. It’s amazing what makes Christmas feel like Christmas. Snow (at least cold), the stores crowded and bustling, work parties, friend parties, kid parties, school parties, church parties, special dinners, dances and of course incessant Christmas music everywhere you go (somehow that makes it sound like a bad thing so I should clarify that I really love the music).
Here in Qatar there are a few Christmas decorations around and Christmas music on the radio. I don’t listen to the radio much but I have heard a bit – christmas music of the Santa-Claus-Is-Coming-To-Town variety, not the Joy-to-the-World-the-Lord-Is-Come variety. Obviously.
So there have been very few triggers for that ol’ christmas spirit. Which is actually fine by me. The biggest part of the Christmas spirit over the years has come from my kids. Celebrating with them, new party dresses, new jammies (a traditional Christmas event at our house), movies, presents, keeping secrets, scheming with each other about what to get each person in the house. It’s all about the kids. I know there’s more and very meaningful parts of christmas but that excited festive spirit? That comes from my girls. Who aren’t going to be with me for the first time in 22 years. Which I thought was really hard and weird until I got a Christmas card this week from my Mom saying “It’ll be strange not to spend Christmas with you this year, for the first time in 48 years” – gulp.
So why would I want to try too hard to rustle up warm fuzzy feelings only to have to control them later. So my strategy has been to embrace the new and glean from it what I can. When I remember the old, and feel nostalgic and maybe a touch melancholy I say a prayer of thanksgiving that I have girls who I love so much and for the happy times we’ve had (and will have again of course) and a family that I love and friends I couldn’t live without – and know that the sadness is an indication of the beauty that I have been privileged to be part of. Deep connections, love, warmth, kindness – are the gifts that remain.
If kids make christmas – go find some. I had so much fun baking cookies with our neighbours while their parents were out. When their parents returned I had dinner ready and enough for another family as well. We made it into an impromptu little christmas party, sang a few carols (at the suggestion of my Muslim neighbour who has gone out of her way to try to ignite the christmas spirit for me, so sweet, so unexpected). That felt like the Christmas I know, kids rolling dough, flour on the floor for days, a table full of warm friendly faces and lots of yummy food (if I do say so myself) and music. And, success, it was only happy. Not one sad feeling. That was nice!
Today Honour is preparing to go to Canada (2 more sleeps!) so we got her hands henna-ed. Maybe this should be our new Christmas tradition. It looks great!
Blessings to you all as you connect with those you love and enjoy the Christmas season.
Sending love from our house in Qatar, and its extensions in Saskatchewan (Jennica), Winnipeg (Annie) and Ontario (Honour) to yours,