Wednesday, January 9, 2013



I seriously think the Christmas season could pass without anyone in rural Paraguay ever noticing.  It could especially pass without a North American living in rural Paraguay ever noticing.  December just looks so different here in contrast to my North American upbringing where one can’t ignore the signs of the holiday season if they tried.  Recently I have read many blogs and facebook status’ this season encouraging people (in North America) to slow down and keep Christ the focus, to spend less money and more time with family, and helping people deal with the stress and weariness that often accompanies this time of year.  And you know what I think as I read those?  I think, I wish our Christmas was busier and more commercialized. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I love living and serving here, and I love the parts of Christmas that I can give my children, but each year there is a part of me that misses “it” – whatever “it” might be - that extra special thing that makes my idea of a North American Christmas season different from the other months.  So here are some of the conflicting thoughts that I wrestle with each year: 

I miss dressing up for Christmas parties, pictures and family get-togethers.  I love to dress up, I love parties and I love pictures!  Here we don’t dress up for anything.  In fact, jeans are considered dressy, but who wants to wear jeans when it is 100 degrees outside and the function is hosted outside?  On the flip side, it is rather freeing coming to church in shorts and flip-flops, sitting under big shade trees and noticing the person next to you has no shoes and holes in their shirt.  No need to play “keeping up with the Jones’”.  I think I spent too many Christmas’ trying to show off new Christmas purchases or find the perfect holiday attire for me and my kids.  Well, there is no such thing out here – just simple and casual.

I miss the cooler temperatures.  Granted, I’ve never really had a white Christmas, but they haven’t all been 100 degrees and oh so humid, and I haven’t always lived in a house without air-conditioning.  I miss cuddling by a fire and sipping hot chocolate.  In the weather here, no one would dare turn on the non-insulated oven and risk raising the temperature one iota more (except for lunch or dinner and even then it’s negotiable).  There’s no escaping the heat, it’s just as hot inside the house as it is outside.  My kids will always associate Christmas with a pool instead of a fire, watermelon instead of turkey, sipping terere instead of hot coca and flip flops instead of snow boots.

  I miss looking at Christmas lights and decorations in store windows (the cute snow scenes with mechanical Santas).  In my small town, there are no houses with Christmas lights, doors with wreaths, or mantles hung with stockings.  There might be a handful of Christmas trees in our town, but all are 3 foot and fake (I’ve yet to see a live one in this country and I do miss the smell of a live tree).  And what about those store windows?  Well, we don’t have those kinds of stores that have those kinds of windows that display those kinds of fancy displays.  Our stores are a room in people’s houses.   

I miss shopping for Christmas gifts.  I don’t miss the crowds, wading through traffic, or the expectation to find the perfect gift for everyone.  But I am a gift giver, and I do enjoy placing something special under the tree.  Buying gifts for my kids is tricky.  I order them months in advanced (usually in May) and send them to a team coming down.  That limits weight and size (and cost) because it has to fit into someone else’s suitcase.  In December there are no Christmas fliers promoting the latest and greatest stuffed into the mailbox (no mail service out here), no department store catalogs littering the house, no commercials convincing you that you’ll be happy if only you had their item (we don’t watch local TV), no store displays loaded with toys.  At holiday time my kids’ “wants” list doesn’t consume them and I don’t see greediness that accompanies the holiday time.  For this, I am so thankful.  Out here, gifts aren’t exchanged at Christmas. Besides not having stores out here to buy gifty things, people just don’t have the money to buy impractical things.  Spending Christmas among the poor keeps my focus off of material possessions and Lord knows I need that refocusing every now and then.

I miss hearing Christmas music (in English) on the radio and in stores – those fun catchy tunes and those deep, meaningful ones and those new trendy ones.  I tried to order albums off of itunes this year because I was in desperate need to hear some, but our internet connection is too slow and I couldn’t even connect to the site.  In church we don’t hear special singing or a Christmas message or watch a cute pageant.    

I know that all those things aren’t the true meaning of Christmas and I know that people probably think that missionaries shouldn’t be so superficial as to miss wreaths and turkey, but what can I say?  I’ve spent all but 7 years of my life with that kind of Christmas.  Memories, ideas, ideals, traditions are hard to break. 

So what do we do to make Christmas Christmas in rural Paraguay?  you'll have to read the next post.... 



Shilo said...

Thanks for your honesty. I look forward to meeting you in person someday because I think we might have a lot in common!
Blessings on you, sister!

Christie said...

Oh, amiga mia, I'm with you. I wish I had known you were missing Christmas music, because I would have driven a memory card full of some tunes out to your house.

You said it so well with this phrase: "It could especially pass without a North American living in rural Paraguay ever noticing." We had to be really purposeful this year to "make it happen." In past years, I felt so down about it that I tried to just let it pass by as uneventfully as possible, but guilt over my kids not having something traditional made me jump in more this year. It's tough, huh?

The plan: next year, we take all the furniture out of my bedroom (that's where the a/c is), turn it into a party zone, and get all dressed up to eat cookies and sip cocoa, then sneak out somewhere for a live tree to chop down right after a cold rain. It's a date?

Unknown said...

Thanks for all of your observations. We can also relate. It's incredible how memories have such a "hold" on us -- good & bad. I too was missing family & some of the "traditional" stuff this year. By the way, I remember one white Christmas in Holland & I think one in Switzerland :)
We miss you & appreciate your sharing of your heart. I believe there are MANY who can relate.