Having such an ever-changing and unexpected life, I have experienced Christmas in many ways.
My favorite are still when I was a kid in Mexico City, and between the 24th and 25th I would go to grandma’s house, and my great-grandparent’s house, and my dad’s house, and everywhere I went I would eat delicious food and receive tons of presents which included the occasional ugly clothes, but mostly awesome presents. And then Santa, oh man! Santa gifts were the absolute best, and he would always eat my cookies and milk; I would leave him oreos. (Who can resist oreos and milk?) And finally, on the night of January 5th, Los Tres Reyes Magos (The Three Kings), would leave gifts as well.
Apparently the tradition is that kids would leave their shoes with hay or grass for the King’s animals but I never did this. Maybe because I lived in an apartment. The next day we would eat rosca de reyes (King’s ring cake) which contains a figurine.
Wiki explains it well:
“The tradition of placing a trinket (figurine of the Christ Child) in the cake is very old. The baby Jesus, when hidden in the bread, represents the flight of Jesus, fleeing from King Herod’s evil plan to kill all babies that could be the prophesied messiah. Whoever finds the baby Jesus figurine is blessed and must take the figurine to the nearest church on February 2, Candlemas Day (Día de la Candelaria). In the Mexican culture, this person also has to throw a party and provide tamales and atole to the guests. “
Whenever I hear “baby Jesus”, I always think of Ricky Bobby. I digress…
I don’t think this is part of the story, but my mom used to tell me that the three kings were more poor than Santa, so their gifts weren’t as cool as Santa’s, and I didn’t go crazy in my letters to the kings, like I did with my letters to Santa which went something like: “Dear Santa, I would like my own apartment, preferably in the same building that I live now, and a mini fridge for my room so that I don’t have to leave.”
I never got it.
Christmases in Mexico are big. Extended families get together and feasts and games and gifts and drinking takes place. They usually end after midnight and then the hour long goodbyes begin. By the time you are done hugging and kissing everyone in the room and having conversations in between and gathering the children scattered throughout, enough time has passed that a round two of goodbyes takes place.
Let’s just say that my husband and my family don’t get along. They’re simply TOO different, which has caused my Mexican Christmases to stop.
In 2010, my husband and I spent Christmas at a Mexican restaurant in Durham, North Carolina.
In 2011, we got our first Christmas tree together and I cooked my first whole turkey (plus the works). We spent a lovely day and night just the two of us.
In 2012, I visited my hometown in early December, and my mom decided to move Christmas early so that she could spend it with me. She invited the whole family over and we celebrated Christmas with food and gifts; the whole deal. Everyone was on board for the early Christmas. Then I spent actual Christmas with Josh in our very first [rented] house together, in Durham.
We got an awesome Christmas tree which our two cats enjoyed very much, and I cooked my second turkey ever and the works. We also got to open nice presents for each other this year.
In 2013, I visited Mexico City earlier this month but there was no early Christmas. And now it is Christmas Eve and my husband and I are in Portland, staying at an Airbnb, not celebrating Christmas. There are a few Christmas decorations in the house but that’s about it. Our hosts don’t really celebrate Christmas, and Josh and I haven’t had the financial funds this month to celebrate Christmas (buy a tree and a turkey, etc.)
This morning I woke up in a good mood. It seems that the Christmas spirit truly takes form and fills the environment. I can feel the energy. But at the same time I feel quite nostalgic. I feel nostalgic for the joy I have felt during many past Christmases and not being able to celebrate with my family in Mexico, or with my husband and our two cats that I miss so much.
But as I keep surrendering to God, I keep trusting that I am doing and going to where God wants me, and I try not to feel attached to desires which only hinder my spiritual journey and my closeness to God.
I have zero clue of how our Christmas will be next year.