Scary stories from a lovely place
We are feeling decidedly un-Christmassy at the moment. The other day Stephen asked me if I was looking forward to Christmas. I said no. He agreed. Our malaise is reflective of our general bad mood at the moment, as we miss friends in Jozi, family in Ireland and continue to struggle to find our feet in Australia, 6+ months after our arrival.
Stephen is annoyed about the three pronged, furry reindeer antlers that people have attached to their cars. He wants to buy a pair and cut off the two outside antlers to make them look like rude finger antlers and attach them to our family sedan. I walked passed a real Christmas tree the other day and the smell brought instant joy, as well as sadness to my soul. The joy came from memories and good Christmas associations. The sadness was sourced from my current grinchiness.
I was reflecting with a friend the other day about how complicated Christmas can be. Even for me, coming from a together and secure family, I feel some of the tension. But for her, coming from a more difficult family, she communicated how hard it has been for her to negotiate Christmas celebrations. We were drawn to consider people who have it even harder – those with less family than last year, or no family and friends. Silas and my dad visited his dad in a nursing home on the weekend and talked to a lady whose family all lived overseas while she wiled the long and painful days away on her own. She tearily begged my dad to come and speak with her again next time he visited. How will the 25th of December be for this lonely, old soul?
I am also longing for what I loved about Christmas in Jozi last year. In December and January everyone streams out of Joburg and heads back to their real homes. Last year we stayed and enjoyed the quiet roads and friendship with the remnant. Joyfully, Stephen’s parents and sister visited and we were able to enjoy Christmas with them. Silas had his first play with a cousin. We strung meagre lights through a holly bush I had growing in a pot. We ate ham glazed in Guiness, antipasto and meringue log. I read a lot. It was peaceful and subtle.
Joburg was great at Christmas time because not everyone cared about it. In a country that is generally less focussed on consumerism and with large Muslim and Jewish enclaves, not everyone gets into the mad Christmas zone anyway. I noticed that our local supermarket in Brixton was open on Christmas morning. I commented to Stephen that it was thoughtful of them to be open just in case people needed last minute supplies. He looked at me quizically and kindly reminded me of the above. It was a quiet Christmas because everyone wasn’t going on about cool Christmas parties, presents and being busy.
Over the weekend my mum cracked out her artifical tree with LED lights that change colour. Once I recovered from my horror, (I am pretty obsessed with real trees), I appreciated it’s prettiness. She then got out the old decorations and I felt the familiar prick of tears in my eyes. They reminded me of my childhood and my family.
Christmas is actually a meaningful time, and it’s deeply important for Christians. Hopefully I can reclaim some of that over the next couple of weeks.