I read a blog post before Christmas and it definitely tugged at my heart. It's about a family living in the Congo and how depressing holidays are when you are far away from home and family and Christmas traditions. It doesn't feel much like Christmas when it's shorts weather outside and you're surrounded by a different culture full of different holiday traditions.
Christmas is normally my favorite time of year. I love the chill in the air in the Pacific Northwest that requires scarves and gloves, the Christmas lights, the smell of Christmas trees, the magic of Christmastime. I love the cookies and the warm drinks and the spending time with family and friends.
I knew that I would be missing family, but I wasn't expecting to feel so sad about it not feeling like, well, Christmas. It's warm here. We had no tree. We didn't do much in the way of gifts for ourselves or family, just a couple small things for the girls. I'd like to say that was intentional. Over the past several years we have intentionally decreased our consumption and excessive gift giving at Christmas and focused on family time and gifts with a purpose.
But if I'm being totally honest, this year, it had more to do with a lack of spirit. A lack of realization that Christmas was here. I just didn't feel like doing much.
I tried to do what I could in the 70-degree weather to make it feel festive, with homemade Christmas decorations. It helped, a little.
I missed a Christmas tree a lot more than I thought I would. This was our substitute. (Thanks, Pinterest).
We were blessed to have Michael's brother and his wife here for two weeks over Christmas.
Having them here made Christmas so much more bearable. They helped make things feel festive, and it helped me forget about all the parts that were "missing."
Making paper chains with Uncle Nick.
One of the highlights was making Christmas cookies on Christmas Eve. This was when it finally felt like Christmas to me.
Nothing says traditional American Christmas like rolled out sugar cookies.
It was fun to start thinking of traditions that we might want to create as a family, especially for the next several Christmases we will spend here in Guatemala.
Reading a pop-up Nativity story.
Christmas morning is always more fun with little ones.
(These socks were very exciting.)
Grandma and Grandpa left Christmas presents when they were here in October.
Fun new trucks from Buela and Buelo.
Seriously, these trucks are awesome, and I love how much my girls love these.
Playing with the new play kitchen from Grandma and Grandpa.
The girls were part of a small Christmas play at their school.
Ellie was a shepherd and Hazel a wise king (queen!), pictured without her crown.
We came up with the costumes about an hour before it started.
Thanks to Uncle Nick, who created Ellie's costume, sewing together two pillowcases.
A shepherd with sparkle shoes.
A new Christmas experience was the 20-30 minutes of fireworks that went off like crazy all around us at midnight on Christmas Eve. It was quite a thunderous show.
We had a wonderful visit with Nick and Lindsay. The girls felt loved and we created fun memories for Christmas. It was a good first Christmas here in Guatemala, despite my lack of energy beforehand. Maybe by our fifth Christmas here it will feel strange to go somewhere cold for the holidays. But if family is there, it won't really matter.
For fun, a look at Christmas a year ago. Less than a week before we had just interviewed for and been offered the position of Country Representatives of Guatemala and El Salvador for MCC.
Blessings on you in 2014!