Home > Lessons in Serving > A different sort of Christmas

A different sort of Christmas

Growing up, Christmas was the highlight of the year. We started listening to Christmas music in September and the tree was up sometime in november. We baked, hosted many events, sang at various places and then feasted and delighted in Christmas day. Christmas day started very early (there were times my mom was so excited that she had to wake us kids up!) with opening stockings and family gifts. One of the most beautiful things about how we did Christmas was that we took this part very slowly and everyone was keen to watch the other open the gift they picked out for them. We would then have breakfast and clean up. Then the grandparents would arrive, and the tree was filled again. The rest of the day was spent feasting, chatting and singing.

Since I left home, I have tried to recapture my family Christmas even though I could not partake. I’ve tried many different ways but the problem is no one does Christmas like my family does. And no matter how wonderful the various celebrations were, they were missing something very dear to me – my family.

This year has been very different. I finished an intense load of courses and exams on the 19th. But the post exam relief was short as I was diagnosed with liver disease a few hours later and the following day found out that my dad will begin to serve his sentence. yes – the court stuff is finally over. This is worthy of a separate blog and I have found myself without words to express myself. My point is there has been plenty to distract me and plenty of reasons to make this a very unhappy time of year.

Sunday night, Chris and I sat down and decided that we were going to do Christmas differently. we made a list of things that we wanted to do. And then the time morphed into things we didn’t expect but beauty was splashed into the past two days.

On Christmas eve day, Chris and I braved the grocery store picking up the items for the meals and treats we had planned. Our splurges included a few ingredients for Christmas baking and a ridiculously sweet cereal for Christmas breakfast. We then began to make soup – curried squash and pear soup – and bread. I drew on my experience of baking bread and morphed a few recipes together and added some special touches to make a flax seed bread. While we were cooking, I heard from my good friend Maria and we invited her to come over and join us. As you probably know, cooking is something I find relaxing, therapeutic and joyful. There was no rush, no fuss. No spending money I don’t have. Just joyful chatting.



The doorbell rang – with a special ring that we knew immediately who was there waiting and both Chris and I were excited. Bob came to spend the evening with us. So we went from being just ourselves to having two guests unexpectedly. Bob cut out Christmas trees and Reindeer and decorating every room on the main floor. Then the doorbell rang, and it is our friend Peter who was also looking for someone to be with. So there were then five of us.

After cleaning up, we decorated my Christmas tree and dressed up my cat as Santa (he was less than impressed). We then sang Christmas carols.


Bob left early as he was getting tired. Peter, Maria, Chris and I went to the other side of town to my friend’s church for midnight mass. How lovely to be part of a service that I am not involved in planning or executing (yes, I realize this is a totally different sentiment than my recent questioning of what is the church… another topic for another post). How even more lovely to arrive in a church in which I am a stranger and to be greeted so warmly. The sermon focused on the history of St. Nicholas which is pretty inspiring and so not anything like the Christmas traditions we associate with him.

We spent the subway ride home in the wee hour of the morning laughing hysterically over I don’t remember what. I’m guessing people thought we were either drunk or crazy when neither is the case. Well, maybe we are a tad crazy.

I thought it interesting that a group of “orphans” were strangers in a church on the night we celebrate Christ’s birth. Made me think of Mary and Joseph looking for a place. But more than that, I felt completely known and loved by God as I was surrounded with good friends and all of us struggle with Christmas.

Today, Christmas Day, I slept in even though I planned to go back to the same church. I did not sleep well, as my heart and mind were on my family. Often I feel the pressure to forget my family and move beyond. But – on a holiday that is so enmeshed with family – it is unrealistic to ask me to not think of my family. Add to it my great concern for my mom and siblings and the heartache of not being able to hug them as they have to face a reality that did not match the dream they’ve been holding out on, and it is no surprise that sleep was hard to come by. Chris and I had our special cereal – cinnamon toast crunch – it is actually amazing. I made my very first latte which was quite good.

Then we hobbled over to watch the Hobbit – something that I never thought would be part of my Christmas. Wow – now that is an amazing film. We saw it in 3D which was quite spectacular. There are themes in it that I want to think about further and I definitely want to read the books over the holidays. While we were killing time we passed someone asking for money and offered him some clementines and his smile is still on my face. We came home and ate left over soup – soup grows better with age!


Then Chris and I sang some taize songs with candlelight and read the account in the Gospel of Luke of Christ being born and the shepherds coming to visit. My reflections on the passage are also another great post idea so I will save that. And then we baked zucchini chocolate chip loaf and shortbread.

A different sort of Christmas for sure.

But it was real. We were removed from the commercialism, the pagan roots, the panic and stress. Our focus was on simplicity. But there was profundity in the simplicity. There was joy in the midst of sorrow and pain. There was peace in the midst of anxious hearts. There was laughter in the midst of tears.




  1. December 26, 2012 at 7:11 am

    What a lovely bake! Thanks so much for sharing! =)

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