A pleasant mix of smells of cinnamon, apple, banana leaves and seasonings coming from the kitchen; interacted harmoniously with the unmistakable smell of fresh pine, recently spread all over the floor of the house, forming the magical CHRISTMAS perfume.
The school year began at the beginning of January and ended in mid-October. Since the vacations began, everything was fun, games, visiting all the relatives, getting a temporary job, and starting to count the days until Christmas.
By tradition, the Christmas tree was put up on the first day of December. During the days before Christmas, we bought new Christmas decorations, all the non-perishable supplies that were essential for the preparation of the traditional food of the time, the clothes and shoes that would be released that day, the gifts that would be distributed on Christmas eve and would open on Christmas Day.
Usually, the whole family got together very early on the morning of December 24 to help clean the house and put up the last Christmas decorations consisting of fresh palm trees and pine trees on the ground. While the adult women prepared dinner and the wonderful TAMAL.
The most exceptional thing about Christmas Day was that the whole family got together to celebrate the symbolic birth of the baby Jesus, exemplified in scenes carefully elaborated with clay or glass to show the CHRISTMAS BIRTH. Almost all the neighbors and friends came to say, “MERRY CHRISTMAS”, giving away multiple hugs and expressions of affection. Then they all went back to their homes so they could be reunited with their own families.
The days after Christmas were all festivities, a celebration of the love and friendship that reigned in all corners of the town. No matter who you decided to visit, you would always find a freshly heated tamale, a glass of fruit punch, manzanilla jam, or a piece of cake. Whatever the economic situation of the people was, all offered the best of themselves with humility and sincerity of heart.
I know that many of the people I have spoken to during this Christmas season have similar memories embedded in their souls. Intertwined with nostalgia, sadness, and the vehement desire to want to relive everything lived in the past, even if it was for just a few hours on Christmas Day. To see the smiling and loving faces of their parents again, to share games with their siblings or to feel the warmth of their children who have already left.
Christmas can be just as gloomy and painful for some people as it can be spectacularly fun and happy for others. Even within the same family, Christmas can have different meanings, because while children enjoy it, the elderly suffer. There are unpredictable, unexpected situations or wrong decisions that can result in adverse circumstances to everything that Christmas is supposed to represent.
I have seen people cry on Christmas Day remembering the happy days of the past when all was supposed to be happy and there was no room for sadness, pain, or fear to face the future. Someone expressed to me that she could not be happy no matter how hard she tried, since simply the memories of the past came to her mind, filling her entire environment with such a deep nostalgia that she could not help but cry constantly, that she felt alone despite being surrounded of family and friends.
One of the purposes of life is “To be happy”, but how can we be happy when our present time is full of conflicts, pain, sadness, loss of family and friends or economic problems? The answer to this question can be complex if we focus the purpose of our life during the Christmas season on “GIVING AND RECEIVING PRESENTS”, “OBSERVING OTHER PEOPLE’S COMFORT”, “PLACING EXTRAVAGANT DISHES OR WITH TOO ABUNDANCE ON OUR TABLE OR BUILDING AN UNBREAKABLE WALL OF OBJECTIONS TO PREVENT OURSELVES FROM BEING HAPPY”.
On previous occasions, I have already mentioned that the beauty of all things or all the moments lived lies in the fact that they will never be repeated in the same way or with the same intensity. That is why we must learn to ACCEPT the passage of time with all that it implies, that is, leave everything lived in the PAST. For our well-being and that of the people around us, however painful it may be, we must live our lives in the present tense. In the Bible there is an example of what happened to King David with one of his sons in “2 Samuel chapter 12”, David suffers a lot. Fasting, he pleads with God for the healing of his son. However, the child dies. After the death of the child, David thinks of himself again. And when asked why he suddenly changed his attitude, he replied: “While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”
David’s suffering did not disappear, but he was certain that one day he would die too. He would then be reunited with his son again, so he decided to continue living his life in the present tense. By writing this I do not mean to hurt feelings or say that suffering and crying at Christmas time is wrong. I intend to remind each one of us a little of the true meaning of Christmas, to return to the simplicity of a great celebration, like when the Angel of God told the shepherds: “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
The cycle of life is the same for all of us: we are born, we grow, we age, and we die. Some die before others and it is inevitable to suffer or feel intense pain when seeing those, we love to leave. But we must not stop living our lives or bury our aspirations, dreams, or desires next to the lifeless body of someone we love. Just like the first and second day of November in several countries, we remember our ancestors with joy and share anecdotes brimming with shared stories. Also, on December 24 and 25 we should celebrate life for the love of the living and the dead, developing an ABSOLUTE FAITH in Jehovah who opened the door that leads us as families to live together forever. Hoping that our dead rest in their heavenly home since our spirits are ETERNAL and one day we will meet again.
The best gift that we can give and receive is “LOVE” through selfless service to one another. The best comfort we could have is the “CERTAINTY” that we will live together as families, ETERNALLY. The greatest feast is not found in super elaborate or extremely abundant meals, but in the simplicity and humility of a heart willing to share what it has. To be happy we do not need to forget the past, nor anticipate discovering the future. Since the best CHRISTMAS ENVIRONMENT is the one, we build for ourselves every year. By DECIDING to live in the present in the best way possible, ACCEPTING all the changes, good or bad that have happened to us. STRIVING to obtain the joy that comes from knowing that Christ the Lord is our SAVIOR all the days of our lives.
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