Can I admit something? Celebrating Christmas in another country is hard. I know that I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again, but it doesn’t make it any less difficult. Every commercial, every song played in a shop, every piece of tinsel reminds me that this place is not my home. In my home, we celebrate Christmas with cookies and not mince pies. We celebrate with shopping trips to Target, not Marks & Spenser’s. In my home, we celebrate Thanksgiving and Santa comes at the end of the parade.
I am not trying to pitch any sort of hissy fit – those of you who know me know I am gifted at those – I am simply remarking that this particular season is bittersweet.
You see, as hard as it is, I love the trappings of Christmas in the UK. I love Christmas markets (like the one at Belfast City Hall pictured above) and mulled wine and yes, even mince pies. I love the special Christmas adverts they’ve started showing on TV and I am pretty excited that when I go to London next week it’ll be decorated for Christmas. I am so glad I’ll get to spread Christmas cheer with favorites here and that I’ll be able to do some of the advental season of waiting with Church of the Resurrection here. I really am. I promise.
It’s just that… well, Penny said it best yesterday when she remarked that this season is a constant series of visual reminders that this place is not our always home. Our mothers are Americans and we have always celebrated Christmas as Americans. (Except for the one night where my family celebrates it as Danes, but that’s another post.) As I wind things down here in Belfast, I am often torn between laughing joyfully at the present moment and turning a longing eye to Yardley.
As it did last time, being here makes me see Advent in a new light. I understand longing and waiting and anticipating in a different way. I know the joy which is about to dawn and I am eager to embrace it, but I know there are daily tasks of life which must happen in the meantime. I am constantly living in the already and the not yet, which I suppose is the whole point of the season.
So, my darling American friends, enjoy the first weeks of December for me. Enjoy the red and white shopping bags and the trips to introduce your children to Santa. Enjoy lighting candles on Sunday mornings and singing hymns of hope. I’ll be enjoying the same hymns in different accents while I pop open Christmas crackers and watch the X-Factor finale. But I’ll see you soon.