December 24, 2012
Benefits of Being a Missionary at Christmas
In an effort to "think on these things" which are lovely, we have come up
with a few reasons it’s not so bad to be far from the familiar during the holiday season.
1. DECOR. Our less-than-spectacular Christmas decorations seem really festive here. Few homes use more than an outdoor manger scene, so rather than seem like we’re the Charlie-Brown wannabes, our 3 strands of lights and stockings on the mantle seem really decorative. I don’t have the gift of artistic design, so this "Your-place-looks-really-Christmasy" compliment is new for me.
2. EXPECTATIONS. There isn't the pressure to give a gift to every Tom, Dick, and Harry, or endure the awkward “Oops, I don’t have anything for you” moment when you receive one unexpectedly. I know we all say it doesn’t work that way, but let's face it. It’s uncomfortable to receive without giving in return.
I like giving gifts, but I don’t like the feeling that I'm obligated to give, and I get stuck in determining the social correctness of giving to the mailman and the ballet teacher and all the neighbors and church friends and work friends and school friends and, well, you know.
What is expected here is a bit of time—time to eat with extended family at the meal just before midnight Christmas Eve, and then time greeting your neighbors when the clock strikes 12, to wish them a Merry Christmas. That's pretty much it.
3. HEAT. I grew up near Charleston, South Carolina, where a white Christmas was not the norm. We got one snow every couple of years, usually in January or February. The end of December could be in the 80’s or it could be freezing. I have memories of both extremes.
Here, you know it’s going to be hot, so there’s no praying for snow. The activity associated with Christmas Day is not dressing up Frosty in the back yard, but swimming. In the country, they take a dip in the closest stream or pond, but here in town, the motels let you pay for access to their pools. And since it’s hot, watermelon is the food that replaces the ridiculously overpriced imported turkeys.
4. GIFT WRAPPING. Practically all stores, including supermarkets and pharmacies, have their own gift wrapping. Free. All year long. When occasions roll around, it’s like our good friend Megamind reminds us, presentation is everything. So the nice gals at customer service are at the ready to be sure you have the appropriate wrapping paper (they are VERY picky about this!) and sparkly bow, so you can gift with class.
I think this may stem from the fact that often, it’s uncouth to identify yourself as the giver of a gift. All gifts are piled together, then the recipient opens them without a clue as to where they came from. Well, if the person receiving the gift isn’t going to know you bought it, you may as well arrive at the event with a flashy package in tow!
|All dressed up for the end-of-the-year youth supper|
5. LESS STRESS. There are so many less activities that the famous December 26 crash doesn’t exist. If you look really hard, you may find a Christmas play or a musical being presented, but not many. End-of-the-year parties are hosted by larger companies or civic/political groups, but that's about it.
Santa pictures at the mall, neighborhood caroling, baked goods to contribute to the class party, costume-making and play practice--none of that makes it to our monthly schedule here. It’s a pretty laid-back time, although, for the record, we do still miss the events I just listed. But the relaxed mode makes it much easier to focus on simple family traditions and not feel totally frazzled.
Not everyone has the ideal Christmas every year. What positive things stand out in your Christmas season this year?