It was admittedly difficult to get into the Christmas spirit this year. We missed the glitz of seeing our town decorated and the excitement of finding gifts that delight. Here we had no visual reminders, no cooling of the weather, no places nearby to shop, nothing to remind us that we had entered “the most wonderful time of the year”. I kept finding myself surprised that Christmas was just around the corner.
We celebrated Thanksgiving in grand fashion the Saturday after the actual holiday (all the doctors worked on Thanksgiving itself). We joined with the other families for a great feast which included an American turkey, and no beans were served!
I decided to stick with Christmas tradition and put up our Christmas tree the day after we celebrated Thanksgiving. The first problem with this plan was that we don't actually have a Christmas tree, and because of the concern of deforestation and respect for the Burundian landscape we didn't want to go find a tree to cut down. But, I had the grandiose idea of using a long pole as the base for our "tree" and then attaching cardboard and paper to make ourselves a "Christmas tree”. My children did not share my vision and were less than enthused about coloring hundreds of sheets of paper. We tried to make green paint with flour and food coloring, but that didn’t work, and then I tried green plastic bags for further and faster tree making. Finally, disheartened, I threw in the towel and admitted that what I had envisioned was not going to come to fruition.
So our “festivise pole” stood in the living room for over a week until one day our kids came inside upset that some trees near our house were being cut down. The property we live on belongs to the hospital, and workers, with instructions from someone, were clearing underbrush and a few trees near our house. I went outside and with great excitement saw that they were cutting down an evergreen. So, furthering my reputation as a crazy muzungu, I motioned for the man with the ax to chop off one of the branches of the tree. I then heaved the branch over my shoulder and lugged it into my house. Our failed attempt at our paper tree helped us be delighted in our scraggely tree and the kids began to get excited about decorating for Christmas.
In the week before Christmas we found that our Christmas tradition of making cookies for all our neighbors and the making of little gifts for others helped us feel more in the spirit of the holiday.
On the Sunday before Christmas, we joined the other missionaries in singing “Hark the Herald Angels sing” at church, accompanied by team members playing guitar, mandolin, Burundian drum and saxophone, much to the amusement and delight (confusion?) of the Burundian parishioners.
The children gave a Christmas concert with singing, piano and recorder performances, led by their music teacher. And on Christmas Eve the kids performed a play about the coming of Christ for the redemption of mankind followed by Christmas carols and scripture readings in a beautiful Christmas Eve service.
Our gifts were few this year, provided mostly by the generosity of others who sent packages all the way from America. The kids were beautifully excited to give the gifts that they had so creatively made and joyful to receive the ones given to them. We hope that wherever this season found you, you found joy.