I'm scared of Santa. Here is why.
Okay, so here is something that very few people know about it. As a little kid, about 12 years old, I played Santa Claus in the school play. This play was about Santa losing weight and getting healthy. To clarify for any confused readers, yes, I am a girl.
Now a couple things happened during the play. First, I got a horrific case of strep throat right before the performance. I went on anyway. Secondly, because I was wearing so much padding, my pants fell down during a crucial running scene. In front of 500 people. Luckily I had on black leggings. But still; not cool for a 12 year old girl.
I was in the play with a sidekick, my buddy Mike. Recently he got back in touch (thank you Facebook, you are occasionally an awesome thing) and he reminded me of the play, which involved copious amounts of twinkies and other food that I had to eat. He also reminded me that I stole the part from him.
But what is awesome about this, as a sidenote, is how cool my sidekick buddy turned out to be when he got older. He is now an the armed forces, serving his country and generally doing cool things. And while I’m not one for serving my country through military means, I respect his service. Its cool to see people grow up around you and achieve amazing things; even if you beat them out of a part in a play almost 20 years ago.
Plus, Mike, if you are reading this…there is no way you had the lungs for Santa. Just sayin. J
Why is this relevant to Christmas this year? It’s not. Or it is…I don’t know. I’ve always had a pretty love/hate relationship with Christmas. I haven’t had a Christmas at home with my parents since 2004. Why? Because its bloody expensive to fly from where I have lived back home to the states during Christmas time. And it is HUGE hassle.
Also, mostly during Christmas, everyone seems really unpleasant and stressed out; too strung out of candy canes and sugar plums to really chillax and enjoy the season. The other Christmas’s were spent at my ex’s family house, which was really lovely and I have good memories of ye olde Christmas BBQs and drinks…very, very good memories.
Last year I spent Christmas with my friend Louise and her miniature donkey and 14 alpacas. My theory was that if I was going to have a weird Christmas, I was going to make it all out weird. Her family was so lovely and welcoming (I got gifts even! Wahoo!) that it didn’t feel like a weird Christmas at all. Thank you so much, Louise and family.
Even still, the many years of living overseas in a warm climate has taken something out of Christmas for me. And this year, there were no miniature donkeys to cheer me up. To rub salt in the wound, I had to go pick up all the Christmas packages for my fellow volunteers and I didn't have ONE. Not one. After years of living overseas, I've gotten used to getting left off the Christmas card list, but still. One card or letter might have been nice.
So with this in mind, I wasn’t in the Christmas mood this year. I’m far away from home and slightly grumpy about most of my mates clearing out of town to be with their families for Christmas. Sorry but I’m needy and shallow occasionally. Or often.
Anyway, I got the job of hand delivering Christmas Cards this year to my host organisation’s partners. Honestly, I didn’t want to bring on the shiny, fake smile but I agreed to do it. As I visited the partners, I began to realize all the amazing work these people do every day. I smiled and delivered the cards with my colleague, Tina. I said “Me hope you garem goodfella Christmas and New Yai”…to everyone I met.
I began to feel this lightness. My smile didn’t feel so fake; I felt the happiness come from naturally. And the people around me changed too; before I was intimidated by some people but they warmed up to me like a snow man on a beach in Honiara.
I went to places where they are helping manufacture soap with local communities and I bought some as gifts. The next was farming, naturally and sustainably, sponges from Western Province (I bought some too). And so on…the work really inspired me from earlier in the week where I had started to become disenchanted with those expats taking advantage.
I saw the other side of the work we do; the good stuff, the smiling people and the great community projects. Development can and DOES work and there are a whole group of people here who do this work every day. I am proud to call myself one of them. I am so glad I accepted this role, although it did come with its share of sacrifices.
And isn't this what Christmas is about? Helping others, being kind and loving to each other? Serving our fellow men? Some do it by coming here, or singing carols at home or fighting for their country (like Mike) or feeding orphans in India. Or being a stay at home mum or dad, who serves their family. And so many other roles. Maybe its just as simple as sharing a smile, an email, a letter or kind words.
And sure, sometimes we get roles that we are happy to play. That makes it easy to be smiley and happy. But sometimes we get stuck with roles that we never want. But how we embrace the challenge of all these roles is what really makes or breaks the experience.
I wish you all a happy upcoming Christmas, wherever on the planet you are. I will let you know how the expat Christmas events go (I believe there is a three day party I am going to attend. Pray that I survive).
May you all have a very Merry Christmas and may your pants never fall down in front of 500 people.
Seriously, I still have nightmares (maybe I should have let Mike have the part after all…).
P.S. My mother would like everyone to know that twinkies are of the devil and should never be eaten. According to her they are as toxic as a cigarette. She said that once in church and was almost run out of Relief Society (a women’s group) by an angry mob…ah Mom…anyway, don’t eat twinkies.