Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Few of My Favorite Things






[what's brewing: a familiar note with a hint of nostalgia]

Starbucks’ red cups and their fine Christmas pastries,
Children lined up to see Santa in Macy’s,
The Salvation Army bell faithfully rings,
These are a few of my favorite things...

Okay – I’ll spare you the rest of my silly song, just as long as you now have the song stuck in your head as well. I have been doing a lot of remembering this week, thinking of the aspects of my home culture that help to create the special sense of excitement during the holidays. While their ties to the commercial nature of the season are clear, I also see them as contributing to an overarching sense of the Christmas spirit throughout society.

Simple as it may have been, the arrival of those red holiday cups at Starbucks always seemed to herald in the Christmas season. While personally grateful that I had no kids to oblige me to stand in line at Santa’s Workshop in the mall, I always smiled at the look of joyful anticipation on a child’s face who had made it to the front of the line and was next to sit on Santa’s lap. Although I rarely put money in the buckets of the Salvation Army as the volunteers manned their stations outside grocery stores and Walmarts, the ringing of their bells served as a subtle reminder that the Christmas season was here, even as I rushed in to get normal, everyday groceries.

Some days it feels like salt in a wound to think about my favorite things of the Christmas season. This week I’ve been thinking that Maria had the right idea in The Sound of Music when she sang, “I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don’t feel so bad!” Rather than dog bites and bee stings, things like water shut-offs and market thieves leave me feeling sad. But fond memories of my favorite things bring a smile to my face and conjure up the warm feelings of holiday joy, despite the disparity between those memories and my present reality. Add to those memories the Christmas lights that hang in our doorway and the tinsel that has been strung around our office, the Christmas spirit is alive and well here.

What are some of your favorite things?

I’ve listed a few of tried-and-true and new favorite online places and resources on the sidebar – check them out and add to the list by leaving a site in your comment as well!



17 comments:

amanda said...

One of the things I miss the most about Christmas in the States is not getting to see (touch, feel) all the ornaments of years gone past and recall all the memories that go along with them.

My mom's tree still has all the ornaments I ever made, plus two new ones for each year per child (one from mom and dad and one from paternal grandparents). That's a lot of special memories.

My last Christmas home, I attempted to make a memory book with a photo of each ornament, but my mom thought I was silly, so I stopped after about 3-5. I wish I had continued.

Another favorite: apple cider.

Ruvin said...

Christmas lights on the tree or in the window.
Christmas music (this year I started listening to it around oh, October, though).
I miss getting to see so many houses decorate with Christmas lights. That is pretty (or exceptionally tacky, but still fun).

Grammy said...

First snow of the year~
Birds at the feeders~
As Amanda said the old ornaments~
Mostly the seasonal changes~
Although flying into Boston tonight I might not appreciate it as much....Feliz Navidad!

Ellie said...

Grammy - be prepared for the shock! It will be cold!!!

What do I miss? I miss home. I am where I can have all those "things" you all miss, but I am not home. I miss my home. I miss my neighbors, my friends, the Christmas event our home church does, the sun shining on snow at Christmas, and fresh, hot tamales that my husband's coworkers at the factory would bring over!

I just miss home. You'd think it would be better since I am close (as in the same continent), but it doesn't. It just accentuates how far I really am.

Then, not being "over there" either, I miss a team and the closeness formed out of the "this is all we've got, so we'll do our best" type of Christmas.

Kara said...

Favorite thing in the States: the festive feel from all the lights and decorations and Christmas music everywhere.

Favorite thing overseas: Celebrating Christmas with believers, since no one else cares. It' a true celebration!

Missionaries in La Ceiba, Honduras said...

I have to stand in line with you on the Starbucks cups as well - eggnog lattes; ice rink that goes up in downtown; carolers; wearing a scarf and mittens; sitting in front of the fireplace reading a book to my daughter; family; friends; ah the list goes on. We are creating new memories here, new traditions, new "things" that help, but there is just something about the "things" that you know :-)

Becky Aguirre said...

Oh, the Starbucks Christmas blend! Sigh...I got some last year from a friend who works there, it was wonderful!

Growing up as an MK, I don't think I miss as much maybe as those of you who grew up "back home"...but I do miss the Christmas lights and services at our church during December. One of the most important things to me is being with people that I love, be it family or friends...no family this year, but plenty of friends who are like family!

I am really enjoying a site called www.simplemom.net...you all should really check it out!

Amanda-you absolutely SHOULD HAVE finshed that memory book!!! Can you start it again? Hope so! That sounds really cool! When you are so far from home, those memories are so precious!

Grammy-¡buen viaje! Boston, yikes!

Becky Aguirre said...

P.S. Forgot to say that I really miss the Christian radio station that we listened to back home...neat thing is that I can listen online!!!! Lots of hometown news and Christmas music...

The Stover Family said...

I pleasantly surprised to see that other coffeegirl Confessioners like Eggnog Lattes. Sad to say there is no Starbucks here in Poland. However, I did stumble across Eggnog Lattes at Coffee Heaven. It is the Polish version of Starbucks. I have to admit they are pretty yummy. I am very thankful for Coffee Heaven Eggnog Lattes. I miss spending Christmas with family.I look forward to Christmas in the future when we can all be back together again. Those Christmas will be even more special then ever. I miss all the pretty decorations and beautiful lights. I am from Chicago, and their is nothing prettier then down town Chicago during the Holiday season. I am thankful for friends who posted pictures of their recent trip down town Chicago. I miss hearing a variety of Christmas songs playing were every you go. Every little shop has some type of Christmas music playing whether it be oldies, traditional, or brand new Christmas songs. I am thankful that this year I can create new Christmas memories with my husband and children.

Alan & Beth McManus said...

As an MK, I always found American Christmas to be rather boring. My favorite things at Christmas -- Staying up late and at the stroke of midnight lighting off a bazillion fireworks, eating tamales after the fireworks, opening ONE present and then falling into bed to start with stockings in the "real morning."

I was quite disappointed when we moved to Mexico and found out they don't do the fireworks like in Guatemala. Still, I love the market stands that go up end of November with all the decorations and mittens/scarves/hats (cracks me up) and all the moss for the nativity shrines. That's my sign that Christmas is coming.

We do all our normal Christmas baking here. We've just learned to change the ingredients a bit to fit the country. I sip hot chocolate and sit in front of the "roaring fire" (our gas heater).

Christmas is great no matter where you are!

Cindy said...

One thing I have missed since being 'overseas' is our Christmas Eve Candle Light Service at our home church...it was always such a highlight, candles glowing and soft music playing. It brings back such wonderful memories.

This year, I am missing our kids. This is the first Christmas away with all our kids back 'home'. It is different. Even though they are older, they still get excited for the holidays...I am trying my best to stay 'pumped' for the holidays for the other missionary families around us, but truthfully...it has been a bit difficult. I am so thankful for SKYPE...I will get to talk to all three of them Christmas morning, maybe even get to wake them up early! ;)

Kristy said...

We are so blessed to have been able to bring a lot of our ornaments and "home" things with us when we moved to Asia. Although we live in "non-Christian" country it has been interesting to hear Christmas carols in all the malls! When the US is fighting over the use of the word Christmas in local celebrations, there is no apology here for using that word to describe what we are celebrating. I'm up to my elbows in baking and like everyone else adapted recipes to suit the location.

I do miss home though and a chill in the air. It feels so odd to be wearing summery clothes and have all of our Christmas stuff up!

Amanda, since you miss apple cider, here's a quick fix: put some regular apple juice in a pan, add cinnamon sticks, 1 lemon sliced and 1/2 cup or so of brown sugar. If you have some cloves you can stud the lemon first. Heat slowly and enjoy the aroma and wonderful taste. Of course that is assuming you have access to those ingredients where you are.

Shan in Japan said...

One of my favorite things about Christmas back in North America is the lights on the houses. A very few people here try to decorate-not quite the same.
I also love that song, My Favorite Things, which, for some reason, is a Christmas song here.

What I love about Christmas in Japan is that I can talk openly about the true meaning of the season-and, amazingly, every year someone tells me it is their first time to hear the story!

Although I don't like eggnog or coffee, I do love the red cups at Starbucks, too! I usually get hot cocoa:)

Word Verification: donot
I also like the Christmas style donots at Mister Donuts!

jackandellasmum said...

A few of my favourite US things:
Lights on the Plaza (in KC)
Snow on the ground (in Wisc)
caroling
Caramel Apple Cider @ Starbucks
24-hour Christmas radio (or Christian radio)
My children playing with their cousins
My sister's white choc pretzels
My mom playing Christmas music on the piano
being with my family, even the weird ones
shopping at Target for every type of Christmas gift for every type of person
being home.

Ellie said...

I think I am with Becky and Beth, being an MK is different. I didn't grow up with all the traditional sights and sounds around, so I don't miss them so deeply.

I have an under-riding longing for "home" at Christmas time, but really couldn't define for you what is "home". Wherever I am, I am fairly comfortable, but I also miss somewhere else. Christmas makes this longing for an undefined home harder...

But I think in other ways, I miss less of the "things" of Christmas than others, and in that way, I am blessed.

Fireworks, yup, they are fun. I think you must be just in the wrong area of Mexico, Beth.

I miss different foods - an odd mix of things after being all over the world. Tamales, fresh Navajo bread, crepes from the Christmas markets in the streets, other hot bread pulled right out of the pits it is cooked in, my grandma's cooking, rice dishes that are beyond belief...

Coffeegirl, I am going to laugh if anyone votes they are spending Christmas in Antarctica! Seriously tempted to vote for it just for fun, but... I try to be honest....

Kim said...

Mostly I'm just missing the family traditions we're unable to do with our kids 6000 miles away. Going to see The Nutcracker Ballet with my daughter. The whole family traipsing through the Christmas tree farm looking for just the right tree. Decorating the tree together. Making cookies with my daughter. Coming up with crazy gift exchanges (like the year we pretended money was no object and downloaded pictures from the internet or cut them from magazines and "gave" everyone grandiose gifts). Baking a birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas day. *sigh*

But thankful for the internet and the chance to stay in touch with them even though we're so far away now. Even tonight we'll be skyping as a family since the kids are getting together to celebrate the son's birthday as well as exchange Christmas gifts. Yay!

Crystal said...

Hi all,
Some of my favorite things have been added since living here. One of those goodies, is a german cookie (I believe) called Lebkuchen. It is YUMMY! I make these cookies every year now at Christmas time and my kids LOVE them. Another favorite thing is telling the story of Christ's birth, life, death and resurrection to friends who have NEVER heard. I also immensely enjoy the simpleness of Christmas here. It's not a hoiday here, the kids don't get out for school (unless it's an international school) and the emphasis is so different than in the States. I learned my first year here just how family focused we are as Americans at Christmas time while here it's a huge outreach opportunity, focused on those who have not heard the Gospel story. This is our last Christmas here for a few years and I tear up thinking about leaving it all. I agree with whoever said "christmas is great wherever you are" so I know we will have fun Stateside but I do sincerely hope that we will remember to look beyond our family and truly reach out to the lost and hurting around us.
One of my favorite things from the STates that I was able to bring here is my Willow Tree nativity scene. =) And, some other favorite things are the ornaments, The Advent Book (beautifully illustrated and tells the Christmas story behind each door unfolding a different scene from the story), Children's Christmas/winter books, and Charlie Brown Christmas. Just to name a few!!!

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