Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Wonderful Christmastime

The Christmas music started somewhere in Mid-November, right around the first time it dipped below 70 degrees. Fall in the desert lasts for roughly two weeks, so I quickly turned over my wardrobe and anticipated a solid four months of Fall/Winter/Spring before the heat reemerges. Pulling on my Santa socks while listening to Elvis crone 'Blue Christmas,' homesickness crept in. 

Battling the elements during a Michigan winter
During the holidays, nothing compares to blasting Amy Grant while baking Christmas cookies and getting a little too drunk off egg nog with the family. I have images of my Grand Rapids home decked in cranberry red, forest green and glittering silver while snow twinkles down from the sky. Brushing my car off to run a few last minute errands and coming uncomfortably close to skidding into the ditch. Candlelight services and Christmas carols that never grow old, even while the congregations age. Putting on my snowflake headband and passing out the gifts underneath the tree because in my family I am the perpetual youngest sibling. Most importantly breathing in the love and togetherness of family and friends, despite the conflicts or immature fights which linger on.

Old-fashioned family fun
I didn't think seriously about returning home this holiday season; just five months before my service in Morocco is complete, I wanted to use the time to show my family where I've been spending all my time. Mom visited less than a month ago and both Chanda and Olivier will be visiting for Christmas and New Years, so my actual holiday loneliness is non-existent. Yet, my pining for home remains. In reality, my yearning for an old-fashioned, fun-filled Griswald family Christmas is nothing more than an beautiful illusion. With my home on the market, mom across the state, dad in Minnesota, sister in Europe, 'sister from another mother' touring South East Asia (all carting along their respective partners), Christmas would pale in comparison to my memories. I'm not missing this old-fashioned family Christmas, it simply doesn't exist this year. 
Christmas in Morocco 2012, no internal heating but lots of love!

Christmas in Zambia 2009, swimming and presents!

So what's a girl to do? First of all, avoid songs like "Winter Wonderland" and "Let it Snow" which seem ironic in the desert and focus instead on the Beach Boys holiday hits. Move "I'll be home for Christmas" off the playlist immediately - every version - it's waiting for you to break down and eat the entire pie in one sitting. Purchase your own Santa hat, hang up your single string of bells, stuff your homemade stocking with candy canes and watch Love Actually on repeat. Finally, get your hands dirty with the best homemade versions of pumpkin soup, ginger molasses cookies and chai tea that you can manage. Nothing says the holidays like baking up a storm, not to mention it heats the house for several hours! Smile and remember that the holidays are filled with nostalgia, melancholy and wonder no matter the continent, that family is never that far away and that next year you will have another chance to celebrate again. 

Hard not to miss these faces and headbands

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