Do your holidays cooperate? Occasionally, Christmas thumbs its Rudolph-red nose at me. Sometimes, though, it’s simply different.
In 1958, my family celebrated Christmas in our Mexican mission compound with a bare-limbed, thorny bush.
We dogmatic preschoolers protested, “That’s not a Christmas tree!”
With spun-glass angel hair, that odd, but lovely tree and borrowed Nativity introduced a different celebration. Hot-air balloons and fireworks lit the nights. Instead of dime-store trinkets, I received a wooden doll bed made by our handyman. My nine-months-pregnant mother, while sewing baby blankets, made doll versions from scraps. We ate weird sweets. We watched village children scramble for candy showered from a clay piñata my blindfolded dad smacked.
Strange for a five-year-old far from her Indiana home — but what wasn’t to like about candy and presents?
Although, if we’d spent Christmas in Austria, the celebration might have seemed less merry. Masked ghouls, representing Krampus, St. Nicholas’s evil counterpart, stalk city streets, shaking sticks at bad children. Scary for a kid who, despite missionary roots, pushed her little sister around.
Nearly meatless in Mexico, my family and I would have embraced the Japanese tradition of eating Kentucky Fried Chicken on Christmas Day.
However, I wouldn’t have savored South Africans’ holiday delicacy: deep-fried Emperor Moth caterpillars.
Bereft of television in Mexico, I would’ve welcomed Sweden’s Christmas Eve tradition: watching vintage clips of Donald Duck. According to one American visiting future Swedish in-laws, nothing can disturb this sacred ritual.
We all have holiday expectations. My missionary family was no exception. We didn’t want a different Christmas!
I didn’t want a different Christmas during 2020, either. I wanted normal, when our children and grandchildren filled the house.
Yet that odd Mexican holiday’s sights and sounds linger, 65 years later.
My parents treasured them too, despite hard times. Mom delivered my 12-pound brother at home.
Dad, who broke the clay piñata with his forehead, suspected villagers controlling it had intentionally smacked the gringo. Despite major headaches and self-taught Spanish, Dad pioneered a church.
The beautiful, thorny Christmas tree embodied that beautiful, thorny year.
Appropriate for followers of a Savior who experienced thorny years.
In 2020, Christmas was different.
We Zoomed gatherings. Met family in a park for masked Christmas walks. Pantomimed hugs.
But Christmas 2020 was good.
One I will never forget.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What unique Christmas sticks in your mind?