Thursday, December 25, 2014

December the 25th- Thoughts on an Ordinary Day and the Meaning We Give It

It's December 25th and I'm in a cafe in Chiang Mai. I've just had a chocolate brownie and a warm mocha. I'm seized by a desire to write something about my Christmas in this year 2014. However, I'm not sure what to write about. The truth is my Christmas hasn't been that exciting nor is it likely to be. My parents are flying in tonight but won't arrive until late at night. In essence, this means my day of Yuletide celebration won't be until tomorrow and that's fine. I'm excited to see my folks again.

 Nevertheless, it makes writing about December the 25th more challenging. My day will most likely consist of me listening to a few favorite Christmas songs, watching a couple holiday specials via the net and scrounging up a bite to eat from my favorite restaurants. However, I won't be going to any church services, attending any parties, doing any white-elephant gift exchanges or drinking an excessive amount of spiked Christmas punch, grog or egg-nog.

 So what, I wonder, can I write about? Can I go on some long rant about the spirit of the holiday? Giving, good-will and all that jazz. That would be fine I suppose. Except I feel as if I'd only be preaching to the choir. You know and I know that Christmas should be about being a kinder better person even for a short time.

 Could I write about past 25ths that have filled me with joy and cheer? Again, not a bad idea. I've enjoyed many different kinds of Christmases throughout my life. I could reminisce about the Cairo Christmas party that ended with a silly string war or I could wax nostalgically about going to hilltribe Christmas services in Thailand as a kid. I could talk about walking down the streets of downtown Kansas City decked out with all the lights. Or maybe I could talk about the quiet Christmas I had in Cambodia last year when I opted to stay in my hotel and watch horror movies.

 Well, not very original either I tell myself. What about all the holiday activities at your school? Very cute and sentimental. There was the second grade girl who gave me a package of cookies. That's pretty cute. There was the pure joy my students showed when they watched the Mr Bean Christmas Episode.

 Yet once again I don't feel like I can really dive into this topic either. I realize this has a lot to do with the atmosphere in the cafe I'm in. All around me, I see tourists, westerners and others, surfing the net grabbing coffee before they begin the next stage of their Southeast Asian tours. And then there's the view outside. The road packed with cars, buses and songtaos full of people going about their daily routines. I'm suddenly struck by the fact that here in Thailand, I only see snippets of Christmas and mostly in restaurants catering to Western tourists. New Years is the much bigger holiday and St Nick takes a backseat to it.

 It then occurs to me that for many people all over the world, the 25th of December passes as most of their days too. Maybe you're a practicing Muslim or adamant Atheist. Maybe you're a refugee in Central African Republic or a villager in a Buddhist village in Laos.

 Though it may seem strange, I feel comforted by this; the fact that like me many people will have a largely ordinary day, doing largely ordinary things.

 In the end, December the 25th is a date on a calendar, a date which ancient Christians assigned as the birth-date of Jesus even though they had no way to know if he was actually born then. On this day, like any other the sun rises and it sets, people will inhale and exhale, eat and expunge what they've eaten. The day itself is rather arbitrary. It's the meaning we as people assign to it that really counts. It's the community we as people choose to recognize appreciate and love that matters. Like happiness, Christmas is a choice. We make December the 25th Christmas with thought and action. We choose to recognize and immerse ourselves in it if we want.

 So no matter when you choose to be joyful: December 25th, (26th in my case) January 7th if your Orthodox, or on any day at all, I wish you well and hope you feel nothing but love and joy for as long as you're here on our little planet.

 Much Love! More Life! Merry Christmas!

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