I LOVE Christmas! Love it. I count down the days in sleeps, starting on 1st October. I love the food, the (hope of!) snow, Santa, the presents, the tree, the lights, the reindeer, the snowmen, the robins, ALL the decorations actually! I love the turkey and ham and stuffing, I love Christmas Eve and all the excitement and wonder of that, and I love Christmas Eve even more, now that I have kids. I love waking up on Christmas day and getting together with all the family and wearing the paper crowns from the crackers, watching Queenie at 3pm, eating basically ALL day. I just love it all. Every bit of it.
I love all the planning and preparations – the buying of the presents, shopping for Santa, making the ‘big dinner timetable’!! I love filling the house with the smell of cinnamon, having a dangerous amount of candles burning, decorations hanging in dangerous fire hazard type places. I love picking out the wrapping paper and bows. Filling the stockings. Making gingerbread, shortbread and eating my weight in Celebrations and Miniature Heros and Roses and Quality Street.
And a few years ago I fell in love with it all even more.
I had just finished teaching P1 and the next day boarded a flight to Uganda to spend the holidays with some of the street children and boys who were now living in the homes that we had built in the summer. I have to be honest and say I wasn’t really that excited about going and ‘missing Christmas’. But I knew it was something that I was meant to do. I left a sack of presents with my family to open on Christmas day, gutted to know they’d all be together, having craic without me.
It’s hard to put into words just how amazing the 2 weeks turned out to be. I was reminded of the real joy of the season. I was reminded of the love that it brings and symbolises. I learnt again the excitement of receiving and giving a gift, I learnt the importance of sharing meals and time with those that we love. It is hard to write about the trip without welling up and longing to be back in those very moments. It is hard to write about that trip in a way that does both the country and the people justice. I learnt so much about what it means to truly celebrate Christmas. And yes, there is that well known, dare I say it, clichéd phrase, “The reason for the season” and while I whole heartedly agree that we must never loose sight of that. Spending Christmas in Uganda taught me to fully embrace the season and all that it means. I know I’m talking in riddles, probs not making much sense. I’ll let the pictures do the talking, for we all know, they can say a 1000 words…..
Our first proper full day in Uganda was Christmas Eve, we were to spend Christmas day with around 400 kids, so it was last minute Christmas shopping like I have never experienced before. Different team members were given different items that they had to source, buy and wrap in time for the next morning! It was like starring in ‘Challenge Anneka’! Am I totally showing my age there?! But it really was….check me out with my 400 bags of sweeties 🙂
Along with sweeties and toys we also bought the children some much needed basic school supplies.
On Christmas eve night we went to Kampala Pentecostal church. And that service was AMAZING. There were tears. Amazing. No half hearted dressing gowns and tea towels, (although truth be told there’s something very sweet about that too!) this was a full blown event! I would have paid good money to go. Amazing. I have never been able to sing carols the same way again. There is just something about Africans and music and singing, isn’t there?! It is at this point I wish I could put up the videos!
The following pictures are from Christmas day. To watch children have true gratitude for the smallest of things was truly humbling. Some of them were nervous as they peeked inside, some too scared to open it and just held their present for a long time, clutching it tightly. There were some who didn’t know what to do with it, who needed shown how to open it….
We enjoyed a wonderfully simple, yet truly satisfying Christmas dinner…
Full fat coke = Christmas, no?!
We played party games and enjoyed their new toys with them….
We took Christmas to the streets in it’s very simplest of forms…..
with a message of hope,
some new clothes,
and a small bite to eat.
That Christmas was a Christmas that I will never forget. For me it taught me how to find joy, true joy in the most simple and ordinary of things, of how happiness is not determined by your circumstances it goes so much deeper than that. That Christmas I fell in love even more with the season, the reason for that season, and all that it means. And this Christmas it is my prayer that we all will find joy, true joy in the simple things. That we will find joy in the giving. Joy in being with people that we love. A joy that is not determined by our circumstances or material possessions, but a joy that goes so much deeper.
Joy in the ordinary, that can be extra-ordinary, if we chose to let it.
I have entered this post into a little competition. You can find out the details here http://www.transun.co.uk/blogs/lapland-competition