Skipping Christmas


But really, who's counting?

“So tell me about your Christmas. What do you do?”

“Well, starting right after Thanksgiving you pretty much celebrate Christmas every day. You decorate your house, everyone puts up lights, the stores are all decorated, you sing Christmas carols at church on Sunday, and you go to Christmas parties every weekend. Then, on Christmas, you get lots and lots of presents. And you have to be with your family. Family is a big deal around the holidays. Do you celebrate Christmas?”
“Do you give each other presents?”
“Do you eat special foods?”
“Do you decorate?”
“What do you do?”
“Nothing. I want to celebrate Christmas like you guys!”

Dan enjoying an American-style Thanksgiving.

This is a funny conversation I had with Dan and David, two HOPAC kids who live on our compound (and, incidentally, just about the nicest, most pleasant teenage boys I’ve met in my life). They are Tanzanian. I’m still figuring out the Tanzanian take on the holidays. They say they celebrate it, but I am completely confused as to how. With the exception of the expatriate digs and the mall, there are no lights, there are no trees, there are no songs. Simply put: there is no “cheer.” Of course, the fact that it’s hotter outside than my mom’s oven filled with Christmas cookies might have something to do with that. I had no idea what a huge factor the weather plays in getting you in the Christmas mode.

No, I’m not exactly skipping Christmas. I play Christmas music as often as I possibly can. I window shop on I watch Christmas movies. I’m going to have my kids make paper snowflakes to put up on the windows. However, there are a lot of things that I’m not doing, like running myself into the ground with Christmas shopping and cookie baking for everyone I know, going caroling, singing in the Christmas choir. Part of me really, really misses it and wants to drink a hundred Starbucks peppermint mochas and spend hours and hours and hours crafting with Martha Stewart, but part of me is thankful for a little break, and I do have some special Christmas company to look forward to that will make this Christmas one-of-a-kind in a good way.

Prayer Updates
1. One of my housemates moved out so I got to move into a much more comfortable room. This is a HUGE praise for me, since it means I will hopefully be sleeping much better and with at least 75% less mosquitoes biting me through the net at night.
2. We are officially on an electricity rationing schedule: the power will be off almost all day on Sundays, and evenings on Tuesdays and Fridays. The good news is that it’s on a schedule, and if they follow it, I can plan accordingly and it can completely be manageable. The last two weeks with random, sometimes extremely long periods without power were extremely difficult, almost entirely because you need at least a fan in this heat.
3. Continual good conversations and opportunities to share Christ with my students and their families in word and deed.
4. I’m running again on an indoor treadmill. This goes a very long way when it comes to managing stress, so it’s a huge praise!
5. Please pray for a continually good, thankful attitude and NO COMPLAINING!
6. That I could somehow show Christ to the Tanzanians that I interact with in public even if I don’t speak their language. Somehow.
7. That I would be kind and extremely patient with my students even when I am a zombie.
8. There is a rat in my office and in my kitchen, and neither one will take the bait on the traps. Okay, so this one isn’t really super important, but you can imagine the gross factor, right?


7 thoughts on “Skipping Christmas

  1. Heather-
    I love this post! I’ve always been a Christmas freak – in fact when my husband asked my father if he could marry me, Dad’s only bit of advice was, “DON’T mess with her Christmas.” But several years ago I decided Christmas was too important to ‘celebrate’ that way. I’ve pared it down by thinking about what elements of Christmas would make sense anywhere in the world and in any degree of wealth/poverty. There’s still periphery, though. I hope your Christmas not only honors Christ, but enlightens both you and all of us following your Tanzania year! I’ll learn from what you learn.

    I pray for you, Heather.

    • Kelly, that’s really an interesting concept to think through, for sure. I’ve been having fun this week doing some things that would just sort of be expected in America…giving out baked goods to different people, etc, and people are SO surprised and thankful. I guess it’s just Christmas in a “not overdone” sort of way, which makes you appreciate it more. It seems like a big part of Christmas, at least for me, falls sort of in the category of other people’s expectations of what should be done. It’s nice to be free from that. Merry Christmas to you! Hope it’s a fulll and meaningful one! 🙂

  2. Yeeks!! If you can track down a rat trap, I hear peanut butter works well as bait–though, I have no clue if you have rat traps, or peanut better! 🙂

    Praying for you!

    • Haha! Lindsay, you’d die laughing if you saw the trap right now….HUGE glob of peanut butter, eaten away bit by bit without setting the trap off. Mr. Grinch (as we dubbed him after he chewed our Christmas lights apart) is quite clever!

  3. so…we got two new kitties in the summer, and now they’ve grown up to be big huge (outdoor) cats that can REALLY CATCH THE RATS and mice, and other rodents. The thing is, they are supposed to just catch what comes around the house, instead, they go out into the woods and bring back big wood rats, with long tails……got the picture? I could ship one of these amazing rat-catching cats to you…

    A few minutes ago I saw a link on your blog to an Andrew Peterson song, “So Long, Moses”. We heard Andrew in concert here in Oregon in early 2009–amazing singer with a heart for God. I hadn’t heard this song, and was thinking about it…. ALL of the OT points to Jesus. All that happened in the OT made way for us through Redemption, through Jesus. This makes Christmas, well CHRISTmas! I just put up a little wood nativity, I put a sign up by it that says, “the Way in a manger”…..I love Christmas!

    • That’s so funny! We have a cat and it does exactly the same thing! He’s brought just about everything to us…lizards with no heads, half dead birds, giant locusts….you get the picture. However, despite putting him in the kitchen three nights in a row….NO RAT! How cool that you got to see Andrew Peterson live. Have you heard “Counting Stars,” his new album? Love it! His entire Christmas album is absolutely amazing. I think he’s one of those rare Christians artists that is a true artist. Yeah, I was trying to post the actual video, but it didn’t work, so I gave up! 🙂 Want to see a pic of your nativity! Merry Christmas! Love you!

  4. Hi Heather,
    I didn’t know Andrew Peterson had a Christmas album, and I didn’t know about his “Counting Stars” album! I guess I just keep listening to the cd’s of his I had already, didn’t look for a new one. One of his songs, “Invisible God” has me in tears every time I listen.

    I’ll post a picture of the kids playing with the wood nativity set I set up. They came over yesterday (so Melissa could have a little Mom time in town by herself!), and the first thing they played with was the wooden nativity set. It’s very folk-artsy, simple, plain, but it’s always been my favorite set. (not just ‘cuz I made it!). I asked the kids how many wise men were there? What gifts did they bring Baby Jesus? I’m so blessed to be a part of their little lives and I’m so thankful Kris & Melissa are bringing them up to know the Lord.

    Okay, all that with only one cup of coffee!
    Love you!

    (I’ll go post a picture of th kids on F/B now…)

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