Before 2007, I had never seen snow, let alone a white Christmas. Snow, pine trees and Christmas dinner (i.e. English Christmas dinner) were all part of “TV” Christmas and were only imitated back home (with the exception of the food. Nothing has matched up to mom’s cooking to date). As much as I looked forward to one day enjoying these symbolic traditions, the holiday itself took on its own meaning for me. The core idea remained the same: enjoy time with those you love and give generously. However my typical Christmas seems odd to the average westerner. We had barbecues with an assortment of meats not just turkey (if at all turkey); fireworks from early November right through January instead of advent calendars; spent the whole day outdoors with distant relatives, not in front of a fire; and NOT ONE CHILD was deceived that Santa really existed. For crying out loud there were no chimneys plus Santa was white in pictures, TV and Christmas cards… but black in person. Don’t ask. I’m yet to enjoy a Christmas out of Nigeria as I did in Nigeria. No two years were ever the same, no one was obliged to give gifts but they were given anyway and almost nothing was considered tradition and thus repeated, so long as the idea of love and generosity was fully expressed.
Actually, I take that back. Fireworks, food and family were tradition. 3 beautiful F’s, all in copious amounts.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed every Christmas I’ve had in the UK, my first white Christmas was beautiful and watching kids unwrap gifts on Christmas morning is one of the most adorable things ever. But, almost everyone around me (some family included) seems to think because I may not have had “Christmas dinner”, exchanged gifts, smothered my house in tinsel and ribbons or… (heavy sigh) …put up a Christmas tree, that I somehow have not had a “proper Christmas”. -_-
Now listen to me when I say this. “A good Christmas is not diminished by the absence of a tree INSIDE the house.” I’ve had the full traditional Christmas for most of the last few years now, and they’ve all been great. However, my most amazing Christmas in recent memory came in 2011. I didn’t bother trying to make it “Christmassy”, I just made sure I had my family there. IT WAS EPIC!!. Here’s a little taste of what I mean. These were the first few minutes of Christmas day, 2011.
So this year, I’ve been carrying out a certain Christmas experiment:
Phase 1: The tree in my living room had been up since last Christmas. Findings: My house was not any merrier BECAUSE of the tree’s presence.
Phase 2: The tree has now been taken down, and will stay down right through Christmas and New Year’s Day. Findings: PENDING! (However, no one in the house is showing signs of sadness, depression, etc.). In fact, apart from acknowledging my glaring weirdness, I’m not sure they’ve really noticed. :/
So my idea of a good Christmas only needs two main things:
1. Create new memories with people you love: Anything from a “traditional” celebration to just having breakfast together… or a conversation you wouldn’t normally have with them (So this year I’m already sorted, mum’s here). That already gives the day more meaning to me than any party and no elaborate planning needed.
2. Reflect on the blessings of the past year: This is where things get interesting. Remember how I was in that video?… uninvolved and unresponsive. That’s because the disability was still very raw in my head and I really wasn’t doing well psychologically or emotionally. As much as I really enjoyed that Christmas, I missed out on a crucial part of the festivities because I shut myself out and didn’t appreciate the moment. Never again, since then, I’ve tried to appreciate every second possible. Here are somethings I appreciate from this year in no particular order:
- I made a handful of new FRIENDS FOR LIFE.
- I designed and started my own diet… and it works.
- I learned to cook brown beans and plantain, Nigerian style (God that was a good one).
- I survived through a staffing crisis within my personal care team (A few of them actually).
- Got to see a friend spread her wings, move to another country and just be awesome all the way. Miss you though.
- Watched my lil nephews become men.
- Had a month when a different, close friend stayed over every week.
- Got to watch numerous members of my family break down barriers and achieve success… on several occasions… for another year running. So proud.
- Summoned the courage to talk to a particular very beautiful girl (Don’t tell her I wrote this). On to stage 2.
- Finally went to Stewarts Park.
- Gave my mom a gift that keeps giving.
- Successfully grew an afro (let’s see how long this lasts).
- Lost a few friends.
- Apparently lost a few pounds as well.
- Embraced new roles in my goal to help people.
- Watched SO many friends get married… and some have kids. Proud of you all.
- Started a blog I’m very passionate about.
- Got one of my new friends for life to be my official blog critique. Omoge, you’re awesome.
- Forgot my good friends birthday :’(
- And to top it all off, for the first time in four years I’ll be spending this Christmas with almost all my family.
I actually had to cut this list in half… and I’ve got another year coming up to enjoy this list even more and even make a new one. And the best part… everybody in the video is back for Christmas this year… and more. Somebody pinch me.