I love tradition. I delight in recreating the memories and moments of years and times gone by. I’m terrible at throwing things away in my home because as I sort through objects–some of them completely worthless–I can’t help but remember all the moments or feelings associated with them. I listen to certain music or watch old movie favorites solely for their nostalgic powers.
With these facts in mind, you can imagine what I’m like around holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas. I recall my first Thanksgiving away from home: it was my freshman year of college, and I spent the holiday with my extended family in Virginia because it was easier to find a ride to Richmond than to New Jersey. Though it was a lovely time with family, I still had to excuse myself to shed tears in the bathroom simply because it wasn’t the same as what I had always known.
As life has taken me farther from home and family–first to Kentucky and then to Taiwan–I’ve spent many Christmasses, Thanksgivings, Easters, and birthdays away from the people I love and the traditions that I know. Yet amidst the changes, I have many things for which to be thankful: sisters who have been close enough to share holidays with me in Taiwan, a special family Christmas in Taiwan last year, and most surprisingly and importantly, opportunities to recreate and revise old traditions into new ones with new people.
An American Thanksgiving in Taiwan
After a rather untraditional Thanksgiving weekend this year, I am realizing that maybe change isn’t always bad. In fact, I know that God was in the details and had even better plans for me than I did (isn’t it often that way?). I enjoyed a scrumptious potluck Thanksgiving meal with friends from school, and we rocked till we dropped. After stuffing ourselves to the brim, we played games, had a dance party, competed in a hula hoop contest (the kids whooped the adults), and had a fabulous fashion show.
Except for the food and the laughter, this Thanksgiving was nothing like the ones I remember from home; yet we created some beautiful memories, and I am so thankful.
Trimming the Tree
In my home, decorating for Christmas was always a family affair. We helped cart boxes of Christmas things from the basement storage, and Mom spent the morning replacing her everyday decorations with everything Christmas. Then Mom and Dad put up the tree, and Mom painstakingly strung the lights. When the tree was set, everyone gathered together to hang the ornaments. Every year, my sisters and I received at least one special ornament as a Christmas gift, and at the end of the Christmas season, those ornaments were put away in separate boxes with our names on them. Thus, we each had quite a collection of our own special ornaments so that when it came time to trim the tree, we had a blast pulling out and remembering each unique one. With Christmas music playing, we all laughed and smiled as we loaded the crowded tree with tokens from our past. That is one of my favorite memories of Christmas.
For the last three years, one or both of my sisters (whoever was in Taiwan) has helped me trim the tree on the day after Thanksgiving. This year, Sara was in Thailand, and though Ashleigh was willing to help, I knew she was tired and busy. In fact, I didn’t even get to the decorating until Saturday morning because I had a surprise invitation to have dinner with some friends on Friday night. The only problem was that my cleaning lady and good friend, Danielle, was coming at 11 a.m. on Saturday to clean. I had hoped to have decorations up and boxes put away before she came, but that didn’t happen.
While I was fretting about the Christmas decorating being half finished and while I was somewhat sad about having to trim the tree myself, I remembered that when Danielle comes on Saturdays, her two kids usually come with her. I thought, I’ll finish the other decorating and leave the ornaments for the kids to help me with in case they come. Sure enough, when Danielle showed up, the kids were there too, so I asked if they wanted to help. These two somewhat shy Taiwanese kids JUMPED on the opportunity. They were so excited to help! So, I pulled out the boxes of ornaments, and with Christmas music playing, we trimmed the tree together. Not only did I have “family” there to decorate with me, doing it together blessed the kids and their mom too. God’s plans really are better than mine.
THE TREE AND ORNAMENTS
[My box of ornaments is still in the U.S., but I’ve added a few special ones to my collection in the past three years in Taiwan. These are some of my new favorites.]
I am so thankful for the way God stretches me in order to bless me. I’m thankful for how much stretching and blessing He’s done through my time in Taiwan; I’ve learned to be a lot more flexible and to notice His goodness more readily. (Of course, I still have a long way to go–don’t we all?). I’m thankful for tweaked traditions this year, for surprise blessings, and for God’s perfect plan. I’m looking forward to a wonderful Christmas season, especially since my fiancé will be spending the holidays with me this year. As much as I’m embracing these changing traditions, I’m also pretty happy that for this year and as many more years as the Lord gives us, Charles will be the one constant element to my holiday traditions. God has blessed me so richly!
Love to you all, from Emi and Christel =)