It’s January 7, everyone has gone back to school and now I can sit down and think undisturbed for a few minutes. I’m looking forward to what this new year has in store, but I’m so grateful for what 2018 brought.
Here’s a glimpse into our first Christmas in Jakarta.
THAT CHRISTMAS FEELING
No matter how early stores put out their Christmas decorations and play Christmas carols, the Christmas ‘season’ for me always starts on first advent weekend. I refuse to play the music or put up my decorations any earlier, no matter how tempting it is, simply because I know I will be weary of them by the time Christmas actually comes if I put them up an earlier. And every year, our decorations are typically taken down by January 1st, beginning the new year with a fresh home.
This year, I wondered if it would be tempting at all to put up the decorations, since it hardly felt like Christmas with green trees all around, a furnace hot sun and flip flops on my feet. Yet, enter any mall and you could hear it in the air and see it in most shops. The Christmas season had arrived in the commercial world. Even in this majority muslim country, you couldn’t escape the season. I even heard Chris Tomlin playing over the speakers of one mall.
The kids each had their greatly anticipated Christmas concerts for their age groups. The school was decorated and many people were in the spirit.
But there was something else we looked forward to. After 5 long/short months, my parents flew across the world to join us for Christmas. We were thrilled! They brought with them a sense of home, a world of love, and a few suitcases full of Canadian goodies and gifts.
We don’t have many Christmas traditions and what we kept this year was simple, but intended to help us keep as normal a Christmas as we could.
Without a large freezer to keep extras in, I only made a few different kinds of cookies, over a few weeks. It kept temptation at bay too. We also tried to do our Jesse tree devotional each day.
One of my favourite traditions is actually for the kids. Near the beginning of the month, we watch the Buck Denver Christmas Special by Phil Vischer. It’s a really entertaining video explaining all the traditions around Christmas time; like why we have Christmas trees, what is Hannukah, who is Santa, etc. It’s a great way to start off advent, remembering what all of these things are about. I’d highly recommend it. We stream ours through Right Now Media.
I love Christmas trees with their twinkling lights, but I don’t really like spending money on decorations that I will only use for one month a year. I was very tempted to try this year without a Christmas tree, but for the sake of ‘normalcy’ for the kids (and twinkling lights) I caved and bought a tree, thankful to find one for a good deal at the only store I knew where to find them.
We brought no decorations with us, so it was fun going to different bazaars and local shops to buy some handmade ornaments. We added to it with our Jesse tree ornament each day and the candy canes that my parents brought.
WHAT WE DID
I searched for turkey and ham for our family Christmas dinner, perhaps a little too late. What I could find were very highly priced. I found out that I could order and have delivered fully cooked turkeys with all the sides, but perhaps not four days before Christmas and the price tag wasn’t really in my budget. So, our Christmas dinner, which was enjoyed on Dec. 24th, included a delicious beef roast (only slightly more affordable than the turkey or ham) and mashed potatoes.
After that we celebrated Christmas eve with our new church family and then it was home to bed.
Christmas Day was a slow, casual morning giving and enjoying new gifts. In the afternoon, we opened our home to whoever was around to come enjoy time together. Christmas day for us is usually spent with one of our whole families and so it was really nice to have a home full of kids playing, new friends, conversations and lots of food.
After a down day, our family traveled to Bogor, a city about 50km to the south of Jakarta, in the foothills of Mount Salak and Mount Gede. When the air is clear, you can see these from the taller buildings in the city.
We hired a driver (through a recommendation, we paid him for the day and for the rental which he took care of getting), going first to Taman Safari. The next day was spent enjoying being outside by the pool and walking around the beautiful tropical property of our hotel. Our final day we toured the Bogor botanical gardens on foot. We had hoped to drive through most of the park, but after literally driving around the entire outside of the park, there were no entrances to let our car in. So, our driver found a place to park and we did it on foot, to the disappointment and discomfort of some. For me, it was just so nice to be outside in green space and fresher air.
My mom and I agreed that once Christmas day was over, nothing really felt like Christmas anymore. We really enjoyed spending time together, busy days like our time in Bogor, and lazy days playing all of our new games or swimming in the pool. Having my parents with us made it so much more special. And I never missed the cold or snow.
It doesn’t really matter where you are, who you’re with, or what the weather is like, Christmas isn’t a feeling, it isn’t traditions, decorations or gifts. It’s remembering the gift that we have been given through Jesus and preparing our hearts to accept the sacrifice he made for us.
Wherever you were, whoever you were with and in whatever way you celebrated, I hope the gift of God’s love found you this Christmas and continues to unwrap itself for you each day.