Living, Learning & Loving La Vida Nueva

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas in Lesotho

Christmas changes as you get older; it's a well known fact.  And it really changes if you up and move around the world to a remote foreign country.  But, it also provides opportunity for new traditions, new reflection, and new joy.

It's not such a big deal here, the Christmas season.  One might see the occasional Christmas tree sparsely decorated with a string of lights and a little tinsel in a large shopping mall.  Finding lights hanging from roof tops, Christmas trees shimmering in the window of a dimly lit home, clerks dressed as elves, apple cider or peppermint Kisses would be an impossible task in this country.  For one thing, the vast majority of people who even have electricity don't have enough money to waste on decorative lights.  Homes aren't large enough to make room for a Christmas tree and stores are hardly focused on the upcoming holiday.  It is a holiday, of course. Things are closed, workers get the day off, people are visiting family and such; but, the big to-do isn't here.  If you are fortunate, your family might slaughter an animal and you'll have the rare treat of meat for dinner.  That's about the extent of the celebration.

Being the American I am, I can't bring myself to let go of the traditions I was raised with.  But, being the foreigner I am, I can't help but reflect on what Christmas is to me.  I love warm cider and a beautifully lit home on an old country road, but do I love it more than Christmas--the true meaning of Christmas?  Christmas is so much more than presents and lights, and it's much easier to see from around the world.

Growing up in a large family, we never did big Christmas.  We had our traditions, our gifts to and from family, our modest collection of special toys on Christmas morning from our parents.  And I like it that way.  I like doing the things that are special, the gift choosing, wrapping and giving.  But, I really like how simplicity helped remind me even as a child that Christmas isn't about the stuff that was coming, but rather the One who came.  We are able carry on many of the same traditions, small and special Christmas traditions with our children now, even here in the Mountain Kingdom.

I put out our few Christmas decorations on December 1st.  Kyle was pretty sure the stockings were meant to go on his feet.  I tried to explain that they'd be used on the 25th for gifts, but two year olds have very little concept of time.  

Not a posed photo
Before we moved last year, I started this project of making an advent calendar.  One of my favorite Christmas memories as a kid was moving the tiny bear from place to place on our advent calendar in anticipation of the 25th, where he finally found the tree in the living room, towering over a pile of presents.  So, I started stitching these little pockets to make a calendar for my kids.  I got all the pockets finished before I became deathly ill during my pregnancy with Ellee and that little project went on the back burner for months.  It never got finished amidst the chaos of our move (and my lingering sickness) in January.  My mom finished it for me and sent it in a package from home and I cried when I saw it; I didn't know she had finished it.  Kyle has enjoyed hopping the gingerbread man from day to day, saying "we're almost to Chris-miss."  Occasionally he'd jump a whole week, and say, "we're almost there!" before I tried to explain that you can't just time travel like that.  I don't think he got it.  Our other decorations are stockings and a small quilt hanging, also from my mom, and a pair of Christmas light salt and pepper shakers.  I hung the stockings by the door, as that was the only place I could find nails already sticking out.  Hanging things is a real pain here with the concrete walls because it requires a drill and there's not easy patch work...I digress.

Maseru Christmas decorations
I brought our advent calendar and stockings with us to Maseru.  We are here for the week celebrating Christmas with our new friends from Holland, our Unit Leaders from South Africa, and another family from America.  Our friends had decorated the little apartment we stay in behind their house with a few Christmas things to add to the Christmas spirit (and they think we're a tad bit odd, as Dutchies aren't so into Christmas like Americans. Still, they're humoring us......).  We also received via a package from home a Little People Nativity set which is great fun for both kids.

At least there is a decent stocking hanging spot in our holiday house.... :)
When we moved last year, we gave away nearly all of Kyle's toys.  That was really tough on all of us.  Little by little over the past year we've re accumulated things that are now very special to him.  He doesn't need anything, truly, and has so many more things than any of the kids we live amongst.  So, we bought him some pre-school-ish toys, Play-doh and Legos for instance, that I hope will occupy him for hours.  We also got him a new movie, snuggle socks, and a small bag of caramel popcorn for his stocking and a set of Curious George books for lazy days on the couch.  This is his third Christmas and each year just gets more exciting.  He is so thrilled by the smallest things and I love seeing the joy on his face.  He also loves watching Ellee open her new toys, and was very excited about giving her the princess Little People we bought for her.

The spread
Ellee girl has been in desperate need of some girl toys for the past couple of months.  I've been holding off until Christmas knowing we already had a few things for her.  I ordered her a stuffed lamb and a set of Little People and she also received a teddy bear, an outfit, and a few other shiny, fun toys from our Christmas shipment from home.  She had a "milk teeth" toothbrush and toothpaste in her stocking.  Alas, as she is still toothless, those will have to wait a while yet.

A very big thank you to our extremely generous "Uncle" who shipped us our Christmas presents all the way from the US.  Having a few things to unwrap and be surprised by was such a blessing to these parents' hearts.  It was very special to tell them that Lollee and Pops, Grammy and PaPa and Uncle Ric and Aunt Rachel sent them Christmas presents all the way from America.  I also got a box of 144 s'mores Poptarts, which is just about the best Christmas present I ever received.  

Today we made a fairly traditional Christmas dinner complete with turkey, ham, Stove Top stuffing (also an American import, very tasty), potatoes and gravy, cinnamon roasted winter vegetables and pumpkin & pecan pies and tiramisu for dessert.  Boukje and I spent the whole day in the kitchen and I didn't even think to photograph our spread.  I dare say it was just near perfect.  We had a full table, lots of kids running around, and two toothless babies in our midst.  It was hot and sticky with humidity, not very unlike Christmas in South Carolina oftentimes.  We had a great time and tried not to eat too much......... Well, at least I did; I can't speak for anyone else.

Certainly we miss home during this time, I miss the shops decorated for Christmas, the foods you can only get this time of year, the joy and generosity that comes with the season.  But, it is good to be here, to celebrate with others, to grow closer as a family and to remember that it isn't about gifts or tinsel... It is about Jesus and He is why we live here, He is why we live at all.  We are blessed beyond measure and my heart overflows with gratefulness for my Savior, my family, our supporters and our friends.

Merry Christmas!

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