Friday, December 2, 2011

Celebrating Life Every Day!

My advent wreath, Swedish candelabra, and a quilt made by my mom, grandma and aunt.

Traditions from Home

My Texas mama, who spent all her life in the West Texas desert city of El Paso, is far away from Izmir-on- the-Aegean.  Mom calls her house Casa Rosa. It’s a beautiful place filled with Southwest art treasures and has a glorious view of the stark, cactus-dotted Franklin Mountain.  Casa Rosa is a far cry from Özgür 2 Sitesi, our 9 story apartment dwelling across the street from a strip of kebap restaurants, but nevertheless, I carry Mom’s presence with me here.

I hold many things I learned from her inside me, and one is celebration.  Mom decorated the house for every holiday. I remember valentines and gifts at the breakfast table on February 14th, and clover on St. Patrick’s Day.

Mom knows how to give a party in style, and for many years her December 24th dinner parties were the highlight of our Christmas season.  She always has a beautifully decorated table. British crackers, kazoo playing and the white elephant game are party highlights. She’s a wonderful cook: tamales and enchiladas are some of her holiday specialties.

My Own Brand of Celebration

Our first years in Turkey, we were invited to friends’ houses for holidays.  Then when I turned 40, it was my turn, and people started coming to our house!  Talk about panic! I had no idea what I was doing, and my Texas mama was far away.  At my first Thanksgiving dinner, I served overcooked shreds of turkey breast and hockey puck dinner rolls.   

Although cooking for a crowd has gotten easier, I still can’t fill mom’s shoes as a perfect hostess. But I’ve learned to relax and enjoy my visitors.  If you have pretty table decorations and a festive glass of wine, no one notices much if the meat is a bit dry or if your gravy has a few lumps in it.  At least that’s what I like to tell myself.

Far away from Texas, I’ve created some of my own traditions. I enjoy opening my home at Christmas to share celebration with mslm friends and I hope to create traditions with Turkish believers who don’t have a heritage of celebrating Christ’s birth. I’m still not sure what Christmas should look like in Turkey.

Celebrate Life

Celebrating advent in December is a joy to me.  Every evening my family and I light a candle on our wreath and read scripture.  My teenagers’ faces shine as we sing a Christmas hymn together. It’s my favorite part of the holiday season, much more meaningful than opening gifts on Christmas morning.  It’s a way to stretch out the celebration of Jesus’ birth and make it last for a whole month.  It’s a reminder to me that every day life has a multitude of reasons to celebrate. 

I want to add more celebration to my life:  putting a gingerbread man on my children’s breakfast plates, buying fresh flowers for the dining room table, and lighting scented candles almost every day while I home school. Everyday life is a gift from God we can celebrate. That’s what I want to remember this month of December.

What celebration traditions do you bring from home to the country where you live? How do you add celebration to everyday life?


Alida said...

We are still adapting to being here Belize. We had traditions in Russia. I do make Christmas cookies and decorate for the holidays...and hopefully this year we will get a tree too!

OliveTree said...

I remembering living in El Salvador, hot tropical weather and going to the beach didn't give me a Christmas-y you ever feel like that?

Hope you get your tree!

us5 said...

i think it's lovely that you brought with you beautiful Christmas decorations, each full of meaning. those create a feeling of celebration wherever you are!

for us, the music of Christmas is a very important part of adding joy and cheer to each day of advent. playing the carols and hymns of Christmas even while the sweat is still dripping down our backs helps us to enjoy the season! ♥

Linda said...

Lovely stories, Olive Tree!


Laura said...

HI, Olive, I'm visiting from Charity's this evening. How fascinating to read about your varied experiences in your celebrations. Bless you for carrying Christ to your friends from other faith traditions. I really enjoyed my visit.

Choate Family said...

Our family LOVES to bake and LOVES to read, so way over here in the hot and humid Solomon Islands, we do both! On the first day of Advent, along with our wreath and carol singing, we add a picture book to the book basket. The closer we get to Christmas, the sweeter the books get. December is the time for all of us to be in the kitchen together, baking old recipes and trying out new recipes, too. The hardest part is turning off the ceiling fans while the tapers on the Advent wreath burn - my husband has to read fast so we don't all sweat too much in our pajamas :-)

Anonymous said...

Olive - what a beautiful tribute to your mother that you carry her with you through every day by living fully as she did. She sounds like a beautiful woman.

I didn't celebrate Advent growing up, but have had a great time growing into the season, even helping my friends and family add the tradition to their lives.

Thanks for being part of our High Calling Advent Writing Project. You may very well be the participant from farthest away! We appreciate hearing your unique perspective!

OliveTree said...

Thanks, Charity. My mother is a beautiful woman! May the Lord bless you and your writing this December.

Linda said...

I'm here from Charity's too Olive.
I think it is lovely, the way you carry your Mom's love of beauty and celebration in your heart and then share it with your family and friends.
Sending you wishes for a blessed Christmas.