I experienced Christmas 2015 in a way I never had before. Not to say I experienced it in a better or worse way than I had in the past, but it definitely was different.
In the U.S. Christmas was always a very busy time of year for my family. We had about a week of time (with Christmas Day usually landing somewhere in the middle) where we were constantly going somewhere, cooking something, cleaning the house for guests, or preparing gifts for friends and family.
Christmas was the time of year when we saw a lot of extended family we didn’t see throughout the rest of the year.
In a lot of ways, I really loved how busy the holiday season was for us back in MO. I like being busy and having a full schedule. I also like spending time with my extended family enjoying laughter, good talks, games, food, gifts (giving and receiving), and with some of them reading the story of our Savior’s birth; though that sadly isn’t an important aspect of Christmas for much of our extended family.
I also like how Christmas time in Missouri generally includes sweaters, warm fires, and hot cocoa (however, this year I heard it was a rather beautiful day as opposed to the traditional cold day). I like cold weather and it was one thing I looked forward to about Christmas time.
This year in Zambia, however, there was no extended family with whom to spend the holiday season. There was no snow. There was no warm fire or hot cocoa. There was no week-long preparation and celebration with people outside of my immediate family. There was no waking up at 6am Christmas morning to hurry and get dressed to head to my Great-Grandparents for a Christmas breakfast.
Instead, I slept in until 8:30am and my dad cooked us a nice breakfast of sausage, bacon, and eggs which we ate around 10am. We were in no rush and had no set plans for set times.
After breakfast, we sat together as a family and opened the gifts under our small tree. We didn’t have wrapping paper so Mom had the idea to put each person’s gifts inside a backpack since we have “traveled” to a new place and were spending our first Christmas here.
Later on, we went Christmas Caroling to different friends’ homes. We went first to see each of the three people who work at our home: Steve, Zenia, and Reuben.
We sang a song or two and visited for a few short minutes. We also had a few gifts to give each of them and they were quite surprised by the whole escapade! In fact, no one whose homes we visited knew what Christmas Caroling was, so it was very fun to show them our American tradition. =D
Following our visit to Zenia, Steve, and Reuben’s homes we drove over to the village of Nkwazi where one of Wiphan’s schools is located.
We parked at Wiphan and walked to Pastor Aaron’s home. We tried to sneak up on them and completely surprise them, but most of the family was outside so that didn’t quite work.
Unfortunately, Pastor Aaron was very sick with malaria, but he still came outside smiling to greet us before returning inside to rest, taking my dad with him to visit. We had brought them a bag of mangoes and Pastor Aaron made sure to grab the bag of mangoes before he returned to the house. haha
Before Pastor Aaron could take mango bag, Mom grabbed the biggest mango and gave it to his wife Vivian. Vivian was laughing and smiling and when we took a photo of the family (excepting Pastor Aaron who was already inside), Vivian proudly held her mango out where we could all see it clearly. 😉
We were hoping Pastor Aaron and his family might like to join us for the rest of our journey singing through Nkwazi, but since he was sick and couldn’t, we continued our journey with his two nieces(my good friends) Victoria and Karen.
We walked to the home of Mary, the maintenance woman at Wiphan Nkwazi. She is such a fun lady and her reaction to us singing outside her home was precious!
The reactions of everyone else that saw us were rather interesting as well! One guy said cheerfully and curiously as he walked by, “What is going on here?” We also had a small crowd of children walking with us who attempted to sing along with each song.
Victoria and Karen separated from us at this point to continue on to Nkwazi market. My family returned to our car and drove into Nkwazi’s neighbor village, Mapalo, to visit another friend.
Justin works at Wiphan as the trainer and overseer of the jewelry program for widows. Along with this, Justin also does amazing woodwork! When we arrived at his home and we sang for him he was so thrilled. We chatted with him for a few minutes and laughed and smiled as he always likes to tease and be teased in return.
Our family returned home after this where we sat and spent some time together as a family talking about the true meaning of Christmas, whether or not this Christmas will be a memorable one, and sharing different thoughts from the day.
After this, we worked together to cook supper: my mom’s incredibly delicious barbeque meatballs with mashed potatoes and steamed carrots.
While we worked on supper, we called my grandma and put her on speakerphone so we could all talk to her for a while.
We finished talking to my grandma and after eating supper we skyped with my other grandparents and my aunt’s family who were all together for Christmas. We had a good visit full of laughs and fun…It was a great way to finish off the day!
So was this Christmas a memorable one for me? Did I enjoy the day? An emphatic “yes” in response to both questions!
I woke up Christmas morning sincerely missing my extended family and feeling sad knowing I wouldn’t be seeing them that day or the surrounding days like I always did. Throughout the day, thoughts of my family back in the U.S. filled my mind and in a lot of ways I wished I was there celebrating Christmas with them.
Even still, on the other hand, I thoroughly enjoyed this year’s Christmas. It was so drastically different from any other I’d ever experienced…and I was experiencing it in Zambia!! I did miss my family, yes. I did miss our traditions we had with family. But at the same time, the change of pace was a welcome and enjoyable change. Introducing our friends here in Zambia to a new tradition and singing about Christ Jesus’ birth through the poorest of poor villages was amazing…
I won’t say one way we’ve celebrated Christmas, is better than another. Both have their perks for me and both have their challenges. What I can say, though, is I did completely enjoy my Christmas this year in Zambia and it is one which will imbed itself in my mind as a “core memory” (reference from the movie “Inside Out”).
A Zambian Christmas…how could I ever forget that?? I wonder where next Christmas will find me…