When I was younger, the lack of any sort of stable Advent traditions was a point of pride. I’ve spent many a Christmas eve camping out on the floor of the Miami airport during a 5-hour layover playing cards with my siblings, waiting to spend Christmas with family in the Caribbean. But, on the risk of sounding like a humblebrag, spending Christmas on a beach in 80 degree weather just doesn’t feel like traditional Christmas in the northern hemisphere.
Lack of tradition didn’t really bother me when I was younger, the holidays promised airplane flights to see family, but only happened every three or so years. The other occasions of Christmas – spent with immediate family in small simple affairs.
As I’ve grown older, we’ve carved out some new Christmas traditions from caroling in an retirement living community with friends from Church to making and eating local Trinidadian fare. Seldom trips to visit family have been substituted with frequent Facetime sessions with our iPhones and iPads.
This weekend, we added yet another tradition to our growing list of unique traditions – pastelle making. Much like tamales, pastelles is the Trinidad speciality for celebrating the holidays. My father and I learned the art of making the dough, stuffing, folding and encasing the pastelle in a banana leaf to be steamed. During the pastelle-making-workshop we listened to traditional Trinidad music, drank some rum and cokes and swapped stories about the experiences on the small island.
While these traditions are newly formed, they all revolve around the strong sense of community through the bonds of family and the church. There are times that I am frustrated that the closest members of my extended family are a continent away (I would tell you the amount of miles but Google maps was unable to compute the distance when I asked for directions), but am reminded of the rich friendships and community here in Central Texas that I have found.
I joke with my friends that I have this fantasy worthy of a hallmark movie when I think of the holidays. Thanksgiving would consist of the family gathering to eat dinner with the finest china with a football game between the men and children in the backyard while the women drink coffee and watch from inside – all with matching sweaters. Christmas would be similar with matching pajamas and steaming cups of hot cocoa while the kids tear into presents under the tree.
But what I have is so much better. I’d trade matching sweaters for long exhausting plane rides to reunite with family for the holiday season, hot cocoa for chilly nights singing Christmas carols to seniors with my friends from church and finest china for sitting around a kitchen table while it snows outside for pressing banana wrapped pastelles into foil for steaming and eating on Christmas morning.
Today I challenge you to pray in thanksgiving for the different communities that impact your life. Whether it’s immediate family, a club or organization you are in or a church bible study, youth group or service organization all of these people impact our lives in one way or another.