Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Past, Part 1 (family traditions and Christmas in the village)

From childhood

This season is so wonderful. It's funny much I love traditional Christmas things when I've hardly ever participated in a traditional Christmas. I suppose that's probably WHY. My rootless self loves tradition, because it gives an illusion of stability.

So, in lieu of the season, some of my Christmas memories:

- When I was in second grade my family had been in Indonesia for a couple of years, and I was just young enough that I didn't really remember pre-Indonesia Christmases. And so it was amazing when my grandparents and uncle visited from the US for Christmas and brought tons of gifts. I remember being totally in awe with the pile of presents around our table. Rumor has it that my grandparents came home, called my other grandparents, and said Indonesia was so traumatizing that they were never visiting again. That still cracks me up. :)

From childhood

- In Papua my mom kept trying to change things up on us. One year she tried to do things the way the Indonesians do and have a Senter Klaus day, which is Santa Claus day on which you exchange gifts, it's a week or so before Christmas. She was on a "Jesus is the reason for the season" kick. The next year we staged an all out campaign to reinstate gift-giving into Christmas, and she never won that arguement again. :)

- My parents avoided the problem of children waking up way early and wanting to open presents by saying that children must remain in their room on Christmas morning until the Christmas music starts. This ended up being super fun with a big family because one by one we would wake up and all gather in my room (I'm the oldest, I win :)), and infect each other with Christmas morning anticipation and excitement. We would agonize on how long it was taking and wonder WHEN the music would finally start. I'm sure my parents took their time having a leisurely festive and romantic morning, and then when they did finally start the Christmas music we would burst forth with oooh's and aaahhs at the presents and filled stockings that had appeared overnight. Those moments have been caught on video and they're so fun.

From childhood
This photo is not quite so cute, but I love it because we all look like stereotypical frumpy missionary kids. My brother's HUGE turquoise shorts that are nearly into his armpits are absolutely fantastic. The thick hair with the big bangs... thanks mom. :)

From childhood

- One year when we had kids sleeping in the living room (not sure how that started), the "stay out until the music starts" thing was just not possible. So - a second option was begun, and we pick between them now. Sometimes all of us "kids" pile into the living room with blankets, pillows, and sleeping bags and all sleep around the tree. It's one of the most contented feelings ever - being surrounded by piles of the people I love the most in the world, drifting off to sleep surrounded by soft Christmas music and Christmas lights, while mom and dad quietly fill the stocking in the the background. ;) We even did it last year in a tiny room heated only by a wooden stove.

- Sometimes we had Christmas on vacation in little highland villages in the interior of Papua, which you can only get to by plane. Usually you stay in a little wooden home that is rather baren but sort of rustic and fun as well. Thus... a traditional Christmas meal rarely happened, but mom tried to make things work. One Christmas vacation was total chaos. Matt was a newborn (two weeks old) the cabin was infested with rats that literally ate through tupperware to get to food, and on Christmas eve when we went to the local church service, it lasted for FOUR HOURS. Halfway through my parents released us kids to come home, and we did and two of us promptly starting throwing up. All of us were puking at some point in the next two days, which made for a very interesting Christmas.

Christmas in a village:

From childhood

From childhood

From childhood

- When I was still itty-bitty my parents instituted our most consistant Christmas tradition - the Christmas present to Jesus. On Christmas morning we wake up, open stockings, read the Christmas story, and then open up the little gift that is under the tree every year, and is to Jesus. In it are slips of paper from the past 22 years with our "gifts to Jesus" for each year. We read what we all "gave" the year before, and then go around the circle and say what our "gifts" are this year. For the little ones it's all encouraged by mom and dad, things like "I will obey mom more this year" or "I'm going to be really nice to my friend this year." It's really an adult thing too, though, and before Christmas I always spend some time thinking about where God has been prodding or convicting me in a certain area, and that becomes my "gift to Jesus" that year. Yes, it's a little cheesy, but the incredible thing for all of us is looking back a year later and seeing what God does in us when we decide to particularly resolve something FOR Him (ironic, since He's the one doing it anyways..).

From childhood

- In Sentani, where I grew up, a bizarre Christmas music tradition has sprung up, perhaps as a Christian reply to the mosques blaring the call to prayer four times a day? All through the Christmas season music BLARES AT THE HIGHEST VOLUME from little huts on the hillsides surrounding the city called "pondok natal" or "Christmas hut". Adults find it immensely difficult to sleep all through the season, but I never did. My dad actually got so tired of hearing Elvis Presley's "Blue Christmas" at 4 am one morning that he got up and hiked to the nearest pondok natal and gave them our Steve Green Christmas cd, which we then heard for several Christmases following. Oh, and the blaring music was punctuated by mini-canons, which they seem to treat like celebratory fireworks, except it's much more startling and bad for the nerves.


Jaimie said...

What does "pondok natal" mean in English?

This is an awesome post. I really enjoyed it.

Alice said...

This is fantastic! Hilarious Christmas memories, and I love the pictures too. I gotta try the music thing and see if it works.

Kacie said...

"Christmas hut" - Natal is Christmas and pondok is hut.

saraebibb said...

speaking of "pondok", Kacie, did you know that Luke Daniels calls Notee Om Pondok because of his hair? (and also becuase it's the only Indonesian he knows...)