Sitting outside on a sunny afternoon in Masealama, I experience a similar muscle memory. With the warm sun beating down on me from the cloudless blue sky, my body knows that it is time for cold drinks, fresh fruits, green grass, and summer vacations spent relaxing with friends and family. I am prepared for the hot months ahead, full of barbeques and fun, and when at last the days begin to cool, my sun-soaked skin will slowly pale as pants and sweaters replace breezy summer dresses. When that time comes, my body knows it is time to snuggle up by a fire with a cup of hot chocolate and whistle Christmas tunes. But my body has been deceived. Living in North America for my whole life, I have grown up associating the Christmas season with winter, but now in the southern hemisphere everything is thrown off. I don’t feel like Christmas is coming because the influences which have previously triggered my Christmas “muscle memory” (such as cold weather, warm sweaters, and snowflakes), are not present. I know how it used to go, I can hear it in my head, but the piano isn’t there for me to tap out all the right notes. I keep reminding myself that it is December and Christmas is almost here, but my body is telling me otherwise. I am internally engaged in a civil war- one side fighting for the true Christmas, and other fighting for my memories of Christmas.
My favorite Christmas song is White Christmas by Bing Crosby, which I usually play on repeat for the entire month of December. In
We all know what Christmas is really about- that Jesus Christ our Savior was born to Mary and Joseph, and through this gift from God, we are saved from our sinful selves and given eternal life. We all know this, but are our actions and associations with Christmas showing this? Our minds know Christmas is about Christ, but do our bodies feel it? Has Christmas become so easy and thoughtless to us that we can tumble through the season without really concentrating on what it is that we are doing and why- much like I mindlessly play through Rutter’s Toccata?
I have been caught up in all the bells and whistles associated with the Christmas season in the
I love traditions, and will most definitely continue practicing some of the Christmas traditions on which I was raised. But there are a few problems with traditions; we typically do not understand the reasons behind their establishment, and we do not like to see them change. We exchange gifts on Christmas, but who started this tradition and why? If we can understand the initial foundations of our traditions, then we can better understand why we do them, and how they can become more meaningful to us in this day. My task this Christmas is not to give the perfect gift, but to receive the perfect gift. The traditions which I choose to continue should reflect the receiving of this gift from God. I do not know how I will reconcile these two battling fronts of Christmas vs. Christmas tradition, but in the upcoming season I will attempt the painful process of making peace accords. It will take compromise and sacrifice, but if the result gives me a more meaningful understanding of Christmas and the traditions associated with this holiday, than it will be worth it. I encourage you all to consider going through this process with me- and slowly we can redefine Christmas. The tune may not change at all, we can still participate in the same traditions, but by breaking the habit of going through the season using our muscle memories, we will be able to enjoy the true gift of the season.
~Heather Anne Nelson