From home to home, and heart to heart, from one place to another. The warmth and joy of Christmas, brings us closer to each other.– Emily Matthews
It’s Christmas season once again! This year, I get to spend Christmas home with family and close friends back in the United States given that, thanks to COVID and its variants, my traveling adventures have been put on hold. I miss the open road. But in all honesty, this year I crave closeness and new memories with my loved ones; breathing the same air, savoring homemade goodies, and laughing till our bellies ache. I guess what I really crave is the warmth and love of family.
My youngest son brought me a Christmas tree, and his darling wife set it up for me. I spent an afternoon hanging the ornaments and making my little place look “Christmas-y,” warm, and cozy. Then, I sat on my comfy couch and stared at my masterpiece while enjoying a hot cup of tea. My mind wandered off to past Christmases where I found myself away from family, nostalgic, and yet not completely alone.
I have beautiful memories of the Christmas markets in Germany with their goodies which included the amazing and delicious Stollen fruit bread and glühwein (mulled wine). It’s where you could buy Nutcracker ornaments, advent calendars, and cookies and chocolates while walking around with good friends in the very cold and snowy weather. I also have great memories of my Christmas in New Zealand where the atmosphere is quieter and simpler, but oh so beautiful and charming. I remember my crew and I went to a picnic at a lake with friends. We fished, went boating, and shared stories and songs until sundown. It is a beautiful memory that I hold dear to my heart.
Christmas in South Korea did not have the grandeur or brightness that I am used to in the US since the Korean customs around this holiday tend to be a bit more private, celebrating only with immediate family or a significant other. But even then, I was welcomed into a family that shared their traditions with me. The love I felt was real and warmed my heart. It is hard to be away from family during the holidays. And yet, I have found a network; a global family that has opened their hearts and their homes to me. These international relationships have taught me a lot about enjoying nature and time with people a lot more than gifts and events, while still honoring my own traditions.
My traditions take me back to Christmas in Puerto Rico — the most festive of all the Christmases I have experienced. The holidays seem to last an eternity there. Music and parties are non-stop, and there seems to be an abundance of food to be shared with family, friends, and even strangers. It is such a festive time! Some of the most beautiful memories of my childhood are from back in the island during Christmas time, especially my favorite holiday — el Dia de los Reyes Magos (the Three Kings Day).
And so, as I watched the lights glimmer and hung ornaments, some of which hold their own story, I smiled, and then it happened… just like that, I found myself playing Christmas music and having my own private dance session. I laughed at myself, I cried because I missed my father who is no longer with me, and then I wrapped gifts while watching a cheesy Christmas movie. Chasing life is hard. Sometimes its painful and lonely, but I can say with certainty that my chase has led me to places I only dreamed of, and each destination has taught me new things about God, life, and humanity. In the midst of pain and suffering, I have been able to find joy — the kind that surpasses all understanding. The good kind! The kind of joy that wants to stay.
I want to encourage you to chase joy during this season. Why? Because times are hard and difficult. Life is full of uncertainty and unknowns. Chase joy for peace of mind in the sea of difficulties surrounding you. But mostly, chase joy so you can learn to smile again.
How are you chasing joy this season?