|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.
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?