The Christmas season is nearly over. Decorations are being put away and children are preparing for the inevitable return to school. Eggnog is being replaced with champagne and resolutions are rattling around in brains full of nostalgia and the anticipation of new beginnings.
If I were at home, in San Diego, I’d be trying to squeeze every last drop out of Christmas. Stealing cookies from mom’s cookie tins, enjoying left over Stromboli (sandwiches I dearly missed this year) while suffering through the end of another disappointing Chargers season and sneaking away to the movie theatre for one last holiday flick.
I’ve already written a bit about how different Christmas is here. Instead of spending Christmas Eve with family and friends, we were with a few hundred strangers commemorating the opening of a tomb for the former wife of the current president. I was supposed to preach Christmas Eve, but it turns out the Malawian government has as little regard for other people’s time as the rest of the country (the event started four and a half hours late—we didn’t get home till 11:30 pm). And instead of opening presents with our nieces in the comforts of my sister’s house on Christmas morning, we sat in our room and cried over the works of art they sent us (which are now proudly displayed in the dining room).
A lot of our Christmas celebration was frustrating. But much of it I will never forget. We baked cookies for neighbors while singing Christmas carols in the kitchen with our Malawian family. We cooked a Christmas feast for twelve with everything from turkey to sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top. After dinner we sat and watched the Grinch on TV—Hailey and I were the only ones not encountering Dr. Seuss for the first time. We experienced some of our standard Christmas traditions again for the first time through the eyes of our new friends.
The Christmas hangover can be a beautiful tool for avoiding the inevitable pangs of returning to normal life. We loathe moving forward because it means going back to work and separating from family until
the next holiday. We hold on to the lights, nights and sites of Christmas because, for so many of us, they represent what is right and good in the world.
As a child I wondered why the celebration had to stop. Living in Malawi has taught me that it doesn’t. I am not proposing that we should live in a constant euphoric dream world full of sugarplums and fairies. I am simply saying that family meals, gift giving and celebrating Jesus’ birth should not be pinned to one calendar day (or month for that matter). The joy of living in community is one that is a gift that we must cherish daily.