In the words of Mark Shultz:
“Snow is falling on Christmas Eve, lights are coming on up and down the street, the sound of carols fills the air, and people rushing home to be with their families.
I’m placing candles in the windows and lights upon the tree. But there's no laughter in this house. At least not like there used to be. There are just a million little memories.”
Memories I’ll cherish forever.
See, as a little boy growing up in Ghana, I always wanted the American Christmas experience. The snow, the gifts, the big family and the cold nights in front of the TV watching Christmas movies. It’s no coincidence that my favorite movie of all time is “Home Alone.” Part 1, to be precise.
Maybe I was ungrateful for the Christmases I had in Ghana, because now I sure wish I could experience those times again.
What I failed to realize was that in order to experience the type of American Christmas I saw on television, I needed a big family; a family that has the ability to come to together in one home for the holidays. I needed to live in a state that guarantees a powdery white substance falling from Heaven on the twenty-fifth day of the last month. I believe you guys call that a White Christmas. That perfect Christmas also requires individuals who have enough money to spare, after all, what is Christmas without kids ungratefully tearing gifts open on Christmas morning and yelling, “is that all?” It also requires all family members to be able to take off work for most of the holidays, because I sure would hate watching ‘Home Alone’ all by myself. The irony…
I look forward to that ‘American Christmas,’ but I seem to get disappointed every year.
This year, I decided take a deeper look as to why my expectations are so high; after all, I enjoyed Christmas a lot more when I had less to look forward to in Ghana. There was no snow, no big Christmas tree with a ton of gifts underneath it, I didn’t have a huge family, they weren’t all present, and I didn’t have the opportunity of actually believing that Santa Clause was non-fictional (I apologize if there are any kids reading this). A Christmas where my sister and I looked forward to being out of school for a few weeks, eating our favorite food, getting to drink our own individual bottles of soda instead of sharing one, spending time with mom by convincing her to take us to Oxford Street, getting gifts from grandma and spending time with cousins for the first time all year. Instead of looking forward to Santa, we dreaded hearing bells and drums, because in Ghana, it meant the masqueraders were coming down the street, and every kid was frightened by their outfits and masques.
So why did those Christmases mean more? Was it because that’s all I knew? No. It was because I was appreciative of what I had. I was content eating Jollof, drinking Fanta and destroying some pound cake. I was happy being around my family. My mom would take time off work to be with us, take us out to parties and do a lot of fun activities. Christmases in Ghana were and still are a lot of fun. It was fun in a simple way, and there weren't unrealistic expectations that left me disappointed. Those small moments with family were the most special times.
When I think about Christmas here in America, it has consisted of hoping my mom is able to come from Ghana, exchanging gifts sometimes, laying in bed and resting because I’m exhausted from work. I honestly couldn’t tell you the last time Christmas was special for me in America, and that’s probably because my expectations were ridiculously high to begin with. Where is the snow? Where are the gifts and the food? Where is the big family together in one house loving up on each other? I guess that expectation of Christmas is not realistic for a young man like myself just trying to work hard to have a better opportunity in America. It wasn’t a set up for a family like mine making sacrifices for each other so we can all live out our dreams. Some of those sacrifices entail not seeing each other during the holidays, and I know that. In that past when God has granted us the opportunity to all come together, those Christmases have been special. Last year, we all got to be together in Ghana on Christmas Day… A Christmas I’ll remember forever.
However, I can’t expect every Christmas to be like that. I understand that, and that is why I’m content. I’m content because I’ve changed my perspective. This year, I’ve chosen to see the positives. I sat down to actually make myself think about why I’m excited about Christmas this year. For me, it’s not about the gifts or having my nuclear family together (because we won’t have that opportunity this year). It’s about sitting back and being thankful for how much LOVE God has shown me this year. The health issues that didn’t take my life, the layoff that was actually a blessing in disguise, the engagement to a great woman, my new God-sent family at work, and a sense of very bright future.
I’m blessed. This year has been great, and this Christmas, I’m reminded that because a Savior was born, I can celebrate and remember how far I have come because of the goodness and mercies of that Savior. That’s the real reason why I’m excited about Christmas. It’s not about looking forward to what I might get this year, its about looking back at how blessed I’ve been this year. Even though I will miss my nuclear family very much this Christmas, I get to spend it in Houston for the first time with the Jackson family. Something I am super excited about. I love them dearly.
Don’t put your faith in material fantasies that might leave you disappointed this Christmas. Just look at how blessed you are because the Savior who was born on Christmas Day has been with you all year. He will continue to be with you. Go spend time with your family or loved ones this Christmas and be grateful for everything the Lord has done for you this year.
It’s just a different kind of Christmas this year.