Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmas Culture Clash

When I think of Christmas, I think of carolling, gathering around a tree the family decorated together, an advent calendar, opening presents one by one, each in turn, the special breakfast caserole, rolls, etc. my Mom makes. These are the sights, sounds, and memories I cherish. This year, I face a culture clash. It is my first Christmas with Bianca in Brazil. Last night, I tried to get her to tell me what their traditions are and all I could get was "talk and eat and talk." That doesn't sound like a complete Christmas to me. I hope I discover she's wrong and that there are traditions so common to her family she doesn't recognize the traditions. I hope it is still festive and with a sense of magic, because I have had some Christmases without that, and it is always disappointing.

Don't get me wrong, I don't expect it to be the same. And I will be excited by the differences. In case you haven't guessed, I love cross cultural experiences. But I also have a fondness for the sentimentality of the holidays, too. Being with Bianca is indeed the best present of all, after Jesus' birth of course, but still, I will miss my family and our traditions, and hope that whatever happens I can still feel a sense of Christmas. and I am aware that may take years. Because this is my first Brazilian Christmas and I don't understand the culture or her family well enough yet to accept or appreciate it fully from the cultural standpoint. Differences still stand out to me more than they probably should. That is just part of the growth process in learning a culture.

As Bianca said, we will make our own traditions next Christmas as we start our life together as spouses, which can encompass traditions from both cultures. We can decide what we want our Christmases to be like. I look forward to it. In the mean time, my expectations are culture clashing. I know, not right to preconceive or prejudge, but it's hard not to. To be honest, I have not had many Christmases that captured the magic I still remember so fondly from childhood in the past decade or two. Once you go to college and you are not kids anymore, Christmas changes. I had hoped with my nephew's birth, we could recapture a bit of that, and we did. But still, it is never going to be the same. And I guess I have to get over that.

There are rich cultural traditions of Christmas in most cultures. When I was in Juarez a few weeks ago, the decorations at their mall were stunning. In fact, they had actually trees growing through the tile. It was impressive. And the decorations were opulent and well done. In Brazil too, having been there just after Christmas last year, I know there will be decorations and the whole atmosphere. And that is neat to see, especially given that the temperatures lately have been 107 yesterday and 106 the day before. I mean, if it can't feel like Christmas, the least it can do it look it, right? But anyway, it is their summer. And when I am in Arraial Do Cabo the first weekend in January, enjoying crystal clear ocean waters, sand, etc. I will not mind it looking like the tropics in the least.

I guess all I'm really saying is that I hope there will always be magic to Christmas no matter which culture or location I experience it through, because Christmas should be magic. The birth of a Savior for the sinful world is magic, and we should always remember it that way.

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