Nothing quite feels like Christmas.
Over the month of November, the local grocery started decorating for Christmas. It started small, a few lights and tinsel strands and week after week has grown into a full-fledged Christmas extravaganza. Frankenmuth, look out!
I’ve been learning a lot about traditions. Though independent, Zambia still has lots of British influences, couple that with lots of international friendships, and I’m left feeling like the folks around me are speaking a foreign language much of the time.
There’s the display of fruitcake at the grocery store, that apparently is actually a thing. I always thought fruitcake was a mythological gift you handed your in-laws cause you couldn’t think of anything else to get them.
I literally had to bite into a mince pie to realized that it was in fact a sweet pastry, not a savory pie filled with ground beef. After the initial shock, I got on board with it.
Have you ever sung the original “Oh Come all ye Faithful” as it was translated from Latin? I hadn’t either before last week. And I have to tell you, that second verse is a little odd coming off the tongue.
Now that rainy season has begun, it has been pouring rain off and on for the past few days, yesterday morning the power at the house went off and it didn’t come back until sometime tonight. (I’m sure the electricity company’s call center included more than one desperate plea of “but tomorrow is Christmas”.
This isn’t my first time celebrating away from family, it is my first on foreign soil. And the continuous string of fireworks being shot off by local folks helps remind me that I am indeed in Zambia. I told someone “Merry Christmas” this morning, and he immediately offered to give me money to buy a drink. (It’s as common to hear “Give me Christmas” as to hear “Merry Christmas’ because the people around here are much more of the “Happy Christmas” variety.)
I certainly miss family. I miss that general feel of chill in the air contrasted with bristling joy from people rushing about from shop to shop or meal to meal.
But I love the Christmas tree currently leaning against my wall, because I could not find a tree stand.
I loved going out to purchase the tree, and finding it 20 feet in the air in a “lot” of less than 20 trees.
I love that the chameleon that found it’s way to the top of the Christmas tree yesterday is currently roaming free in the house.
I love that I wrapped up things to put in friends’ stockings that in the States would just be everyday occurrences, but here are rare jewels infrequently stumbled upon.
I love that I had a conversation with a 9-year-old tonight that included her certainty that St. Nick is probably the oldest man who ever lived.
I love that all around, work is still happening. This one involves some mixed emotions to be sure, but people will take a pause tomorrow, and then everything else will resume as normal. It’s a day, not a season, a day of remembrance.
When everything is stripped away, what you are left with is just what you are left with. It’s a lot less glamorous and involves far fewer twinkling lights on houses and fancily decorated trees. It looks different and it feels different. It even sounds different. But none of that changes the core of what it is – the celebration of God with us.
More than anything that seems like something to celebrate.
“O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.”