Surprising as this might be to some people, Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday… and it’s not celebrated anywhere else in the world. In Papua New Guinea, it’s just a normal Thursday.
I simultaneously really enjoyed and had a hard time this year. Those traditions that you grew up with, created, or want to start are all different. It doesn’t feel like fall or winter. There aren’t many presents. There’s no ice skating, or driving to see all the lights, or fresh Christmas trees, or coats and scarves. There’s no Christmas shopping, or red cups filled with Christmas cheer. Petty things, really. But there are friends and family, there are people from your home country who get it, there are fake trees and lights, there are gifts handmade with love, and there is a beautiful unity born from everyone being separated from home and tradition and all being a bit sad about it. It’s a bit hard to explain; and it’s both bitter and sweet at the same time.
Josh and I spent Thanksgiving with his parents, and some good friends of ours we consider to be family as well. We are blessed more than some in this way, because most people on the mission field don’t have family living on the same continent as them, let alone the same hill. We ate, we chatted, and the kids watched Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving in the background. It was so, so nice.
We had a pretty traditional meal, with chicken instead of turkey, since turkey must be imported and is therefore laughably expensive. We even had strawberry rhubarb pie (a rare find in this country!). It’s a small thing, but it was good for my heart to have something as normal rhubarb. Just another example of how ordinary things become extraordinary just because of where we are and how hard it is to find some things. And how incredibly God provides for His children.
Josh and I are not hugely traditional people when it comes to holidays… we have a couple small things that we like to do or have, but even those are going to have to change now. It makes me a little bit sad, but it means there is space now for new traditions to be made.
Christmas is in full-swing on the center here… trees are set up and decorated, lights twinkle from almost everyone’s porches, and Christmas carols can be heard on most speakers now. Josh’s mom collected several Christmas trees, so she brilliantly set up a Christmas tree lot for people to walk through, drink hot chocolate, and “pick” a tree. It was terribly hot (and we may have made that worse with our scarves and Santa hats), but it was so nice to sit with some of the ladies in the midst of Christmas music and trees sipping hot chocolate and talking about the things we love about Christmas. I hope it blessed them as much as it did me!
Happy belated Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas!