When I was in high school and newly immigrated to America, I hated Christmas. It was a time when I would be reminded of being an immigrant, an outsider watching from afar while natives carry on their traditions inside the closed nuclei of their families. This is probably why I’m still great friends today with a few Jewish high school classmates.
As I got older, I came to like the idea of Christmas. It is a time when most people show an extra measure of kindness toward others, and that has to be a good thing. I also liked the idea of giving to others, although I was turned off, like many people, by the reality of buying a lot of stuff not for their usefulness but because they fall in the appropriate price ranges. I didn’t celebrate Christmas. Even after Kristin and I met, we choose to travel to remote places during Christmas and New Year.
Since our first child was born in 2005, we started to do Christmas with all the traditional trappings in our home in Boston. With children, Christmas takes on a whole new dimension. Children are so excited about all things Christmas; it’d be worth it to do it just for them. Over the years, even this die-hard atheist has grown fond of the tree, candles, red, stars, advent calendar…
And I love our own Christmas feast. The main course is Ribbe, a traditional Norwegian Christmas dish. It’s a slab of pork belly with skin on, roasted slowly and then broiled to get crispy, popped skin. It’s wonderfully fatty and yummy. We also made a habit of inviting friends to our Christmas dinner. There’re always people we care about who don’t have an extended family nearby, or, who understandably prefer to be with friends rather than family.
This year, far from home in the darkness of the north, where reindeer are raised for meat and fur rather than for aerial transportation, my thoughts go to my friends and family in the US. This is the price of adventure. Also, here in the land of ice and snow, I’m more acutely aware than ever that the holiday season is in December for a very good reason: the gathering and celebration soften the harsh front edge of winter.
Best wishes to all, and as they say here, God Jul!