Christmas has always been my favorite holiday of the year. When I was small, the whole family we would go to church. And after church we would go to the cemetery, afterwards, we would go back home to have a Christmas dinner and after the delicious food it was time for the presents. Even back then as a child the best part of Christmas was not the gifts, but the food. I just love Christmas dinner.
I never felt complete like myself during the last Christmas just before the stroke. I thought that it was because of the weather, being used to those warm and sunny Californian days and suddenly coming over to this cold and dark, depressing weather had its effects on me.
In Finland, winters are, usually, very nice, beautiful and light because of the snow lying everywhere, but that particular Christmas was very dark all day and night because there was no snow at all. There was just that irritating slippery ice everywhere. It was a very peculiar black Christmas. And it would prove to be a black Christmas in so very many senses.
Over those days, I also felt bad, like sick all the time. Feeling like I had to throw up. It wasn’t an intense feeling, but it was annoying. Everybody knew how much I loved Christmas food, and usually, I would eat like there is no tomorrow. But this Christmas nothing tasted as delicious as before. I didn’t feel like eating. I just nibbled a little something. I wasn’t my talkative self either but kept very much to myself. Relatives may have thought that I have changed; little did we know that it was all effects of the big change that was yet to come.
I went crazy with presents on the first Christmas after the stroke. I was buying them like merchandise was running out of stores. I wanted to show my appreciation to everybody. Only then I understood what real friends were and how much they meant. I would not be here today if it weren’t because of my family and friends. I wouldn’t be living this great life I have if they did not help me pulling through the lived experience. I enjoyed giving out presents on that particular Christmas and seeing how much people liked them.
Being grateful for all what you have is important, family is important and passing this recognition from generation to generation is a privilege to be considered sacred. Teach your children well and make sure they understand the reason of it as well.
Christmas times are a great time for charity. Donate some of your wealth to the less fortunate. If you are rich, donate to foundations or groups that are dedicated to helping the ones in need. If you have a lot of material things that you do not really use, donate those. If you have time, you can volunteer and help out at shelters. If your only riches lie in your heart, and then share some of that love with those who are lonely and no one to share anything with. Christmas is a season of giving and sharing. Christmas is more than just a season; it is a state of mind. To share, cherish and express goodwill and to be in peace with yourself and everybody else, that is to have the spirit of Christmas.
Until one feels the spirit of Christmas, there is no Christmas. Outer displays, tinsel, decorations and all the lights are just too warm you up to the event that is to come, but they are not Christmas. Christmas is the moment when we all start sharing; Christmas is feeling one owns warmth as the warmth of others. It is a dimension of love that unites us all.
Since the stroke, Christmas became an even bigger event for me. I had so many friends visiting that we had to put Christmas decorations, and we had to start baking a bunch of stuff from at least week before Christmas because we wouldn’t have time for that later. Friends would come in bunches, and I don’t mean one friend a day but many people at the same time all those Christmas days. I loved it!
Last Christmas was wonderful! Henning ´s mother Sheila and his uncle Alan from Curacao and cousins Darrick, and Evandro that live in the Netherlands were here in Finland. My dear, friend Stephanie was also here. They had all come for our wedding and stayed over for Christmas. My Philippines angels (assistants) Emily and Cathy were also there (not to work but to spend Christmas with us). And so was my best friend Irina with her partner Otto. Parents, of course, since we were celebrating at their house. A beautifully set dinner table with a long and shiny golden tablecloth on it and white chairs were placed in my old room. Christmassy green, low flowing flower centerpiece with white lilies was in the middle. Mom´s gorgeous antique china that was taken out only in special occasions was glowing in the early hours of dark winter day. And a mixed menu of Finnish and Curacao Christmas dishes to savor.
We laughed so, so much when we were handing out gifts following Stephanie’s family tradition of doing so. When someone got a present, they had to try to guess what it was by asking questions like “Does it have something to do with cooking?” or “Can I wear it outside?”, etc. Next present has to wait till the receiver have guessed what the present is. I recommend this! No need to buy some expensive board games. My funniest Christmas ever!
My last Christmas was the best Christmas of my life! I got married, and the Christmas evening was SO much fun! Don’t remember when I laughed that much and I often laughed. It was the kind of Christmas I have dreamt of all my life. Sharing a very merry Christmas; with one’s family and friends. Just talking, laughing and having fun. And of course with great food, exactly the way I love it.
Remember though to keep your expectations realistic so that you can enjoy celebrating Christmas and just be yourself. Be yourself and give others their space so they can be their selves. Some people try to keep up an act of pretense around relatives and friends, but it is more important to just be yourself than to be a symbolic idea of who you are.
I love this season for so many different reasons. One of the reasons being, that allot of people that come to visit during this season. Another reason is the wonderful smell of the baking and the cooking. Of course also, because of the taste of the food. Also because; of all the sharing. And mainly, because that this season gives me a chance to have all my loved ones together in the same room at the same time. There isn’t anything better in this life than that.
Every Christmas my mom and I share this private joke. It is something we just can´t get our heads around. “Why should you stress yourself with the cleaning of all closets for Christmas? Unless you are planning to be and receive all your guests in them.”
A good idea would be for people to feel the spirit of Christmas more often. Like on any weekend that you don’t have much to do. When you are bored or when you are feeling lonely. Act like it is Christmas and go visit your family and friends and have a jolly time.
It is always Christmas time here at the “van der Hoeven” household. So feel welcome to come over and have some fun. Just do not forget to take the delicious food with you. I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars. And have at least 12 of these jars so we could open one every month.
Most importantly any old or pending conflicts should be resolved before the New Year. Start off 2010 with a clean slate. Forgive and forget and move on. Talk it out, be accepting. Like I already wrote in my third blog, communicate people! Ring in the New Year with as little baggage as possible.