Tag Archives: holidays

Mothers’ Day

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Today is Mothers’ Day in Costa Rica.  Since we have lived in the U.S., Mexico and Costa Rica, I think I should get three Mothers’ Days a year.  There are two times of the year when it’s best to make big purchases in Costa Rica.  One is Mothers’ Day and the other is Black Friday… which is neither on a Friday nor are sale prices to be expected, but sometimes you get lucky.  (That idea still catching on down here.)  But Mothers’ Day is the day to make big purchases here.

Though I’m not expecting a car or a refrigerator or even a blender, I would like a coffee date with my husband or maybe, as my 6-year-old says, “a pack of flowers”.  The fresh-cut flowers are one of my favorite things about Costa Rica.  They are cheap and exotic, beautiful and fresh.  Sometimes I buy myself flowers just for the sheer pleasure of having beautiful things in my house.  Nothing makes me “mushy” like getting a bunch of flowers for no reason at all.  I just love that!

So today on Mothers’ Day I will feel sorry for all of you Mothers back in the States who only get one Mothers’ Day per year and who just get ordinary roses or carnations which your husbands pay outrageous prices for.  I will gaze lovingly at my “pack” of lilies, bird-of-paradise, daisies and hibiscus and think about how lucky I am to get three Mothers’ Days per year.

What?!? No Christmas?

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snow globeI handed my friend Marcela the pretty little package wrapped in simple Christmas paper.  Inside was a snow globe.  As she tipped the globe, the figurine of a snowman clad in a red scarf smiled out at her through a curtain of glittery snow.

“Oooooh, I love it!  Just LOVE IT!”  She squealed with delight.  I was glad she liked the Christmas present.  We stood beside my tall Christmas tree that she had been eyeing with pleasure all evening.  “You know, when I was a child my parents were pastors.  The Christian church used to be very conservative back then.”  She commented as she fingered an ornament on the tree.  “And we never, ever decorated for Christmas because we were always concerned about what people would say.”

I must have had a confused look on my face because she expounded further on her parents’ conservative views.  Marcela’s family never had a Christmas tree.  They never mentioned the Nativity story.  And they never gave each other presents.  Apparently here in Costa Rica many Christians still view Christmas as a Catholic or pagan holiday, depending on their own prejudices.  Many families that have converted from Catholicism to Protestantism have completely rejected anything that even appears in the Catholic tradition.

While my friend talked, I remember a missionary from several years ago telling me that she collected Nativity sets.  But she always had to put them away whenever a Costa Rican family came over to her house because the Nativity was considered part of the Catholic symbolism.  My own Nativity set was sitting on a side table in plain sight.

Marcela continued her story.  She said she would always go over to her friends’ houses and lovingly admire their trees and lights, but her parent’s wouldn’t budge in their decision not to decorate.  So when she got married, she decided, “I am an adult now.  I’m going to make my own decisions, and I don’t care what people think!  I love Christmas, and I’m going to decorate.”

She and her husband married in October.  Her first major purchase was to buy a Christmas tree!  The first year they decorated together, and it was a novelty for both of them.  The second year he said, “You’re going to put that up AGAIN?” and he lost interest in helping her decorate.

This is their third year of marriage.  They are currently sharing a very tiny apartment above the church with her in-laws who are also the pastors now.  When she decorated their tiny apartment with a little tree and lights around the window, her in-laws were less than thrilled.  “Hmm,” her father-in-law sniffed, “I feel like I’m living in a department store.”

So now I understood her great joy in receiving a pretty little ornament that she probably never would have bought for herself.  Their family still does not celebrate Christmas… no gifts, no traditions, no decorations.  But my friend is doing her best to keep up her Christmas cheer.

The whole thing is so sad to me because Christmas is meant to be for everyone!  No denomination owns Christmas.  The angel who announced the birth of Jesus our Lord said, “I bring you good news of great joy that is to be for all men!”  Christmas is meant to be for everyone, because salvation is meant to be for everyone as well.  The birth of our Savior is the true reason for Christmas.

The Worry of the Christmas Season

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Christmas season is a busy time.  I was looking at the calendar yesterday and feeling the panic rising up in my mind.  So much to do!  I’m worried that I will forget to do something.  The season becomes stressful and we wish we had more time.

The business of our life leaves little room for the source of our life.  God gives us time, but who has time for God?  Here are some thoughts to help you manage the feelings of stress and business during the holidays.  I hope they help you to slow down and savor the moments you have with your family and friends.

I don’t take credit for these thoughts.  They come from “One Thousand Gifts”, by Ann Voskamp either as a direct quote where indicated or a summary of ideas:

When asked what was his most profound regret, the pastor answered, “Being in a hurry.  Getting to the next thing without fully entering the thing in front of me.  I cannot think of a single advantage I’ve ever gained from being in a hurry.  But a thousand broken and missed things, tens of thousands, lie in the wake of all the rushing .  Through all that haste I thought I was making up time.  It turns out that I was throwing it away.”

In a world addicted to speed, we race for more and snag on time and leak empty.  The longer we keep running, the longer the gash, and we drain, bleed away.  Hurry always empties a soul.

“Time is a relentless river.  It rages on, a respecter of no one.  And this, this is the only way to slow time:  When I fully enter time’s swift current, enter into the current moment with the weight of all my attention, I can slow the torrent be being all here.  I only live the full life when I live fully in the moment…I slow and enter.  And time slows.  Weigh down this moment in time with attention full, and the whole of time’s river slows, slows, slows… Wherever you are, be all there.

We can only interact with God in the present.  Though He exists in the past, present and future, WE can only be with him in the present and he calls himself the Great I AM.  When I am present, I meet I AM, the very presence of a present God.  In his embrace, time loses all sense of speed and stress and space and stands so still and holy.

And now this is taken from Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young

Trust me and refuse to worry, for I am your Strength and Song.  You are feeling wobbly this morning, looking at difficult times looming ahead, measuring them against your won strength.  However, they are not today’s tasks- or even tomorrow’s.  So leave them in the future and come home to the present, where you will find Me waiting for you.  Since I am your Strength, I can empower you to handle each task as it comes.  Because I am your Song, I can give you Joy as you work alongside Me.

Keep bringing your mind back to the present moment.  Among all my creatures, only humans can anticipate future events.  This ability is a blessing, but it becomes a curse whenever it is misused.  If you use your magnificent mind to worry about tomorrow, you cloak yourself in dark unbelief.  However, when the hope of heaven fills your thoughts, the light of my presence envelops you.  Though heaven is future, it is also present tense.  As you walk in the light with Me, you have one foot on earth and one foot in heaven.

Your future is in My hands; I release it to you day by day, moment by moment.  Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow.  I want you to live this day abundantly, seeing all there is to see, doing all there is to do.  Don’t be distracted by future concerns.  Leave them to Me!  Each day of life is a glorious gift, but so few people know how to live within the confines of today.  Much of their energy for abundant living spills over the time line into tomorrow’s worries or past regrets.  Their remaining energy is sufficient only for limping through the day, not for living it to the full.  I am training you to keep your focus on my presence in the present.  This is how to receive abundant Life, which flows freely form my Throne of Grace.”

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Keep your thoughts in the present and don’t worry about the future.  Be fully present in all you do this season.  Look your loved ones fully in the face when they talk to you and give them your full attention.  Don’t worry about completing all the things on your To-Do list.  Just breathe, and don’t worry.  “Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Matthew 6: 34

Please pass the “Salad of Lettuce”

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When we lived in Mexico, we invited our Mexican friends over for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.  I included tortillas for a touch of familiarity for our friends, but I assure you that was the first time that tortillas were present on my Thanksgiving table.  I remember one of the little boys sat staring at his plate, dumbfounded.  Then he whispered loudly to his mother, “Que es esto?/ What is this?”

She quickly shushed him and explained hurriedly, “Es ensalada de lechuga./ It’s salad of lettuce.”  I stiffled a giggle at her description.  I can only imagine what turkey and mashed potato tacos tasted like to them.  But they ooh-ed and ahh-ed appropriately throughout the meal.  Then once I brought out the pumpkin pie, they thought they died and went to heaven!  From then on, I have had regular requests from my friends (in both Costa Rica and Mexico) to make pumpkin pie at all times of the year.

Last year, I made 11 pies during the month of November.  Each time my Latino friends rolled their eyes in ecstasy as they savored every bite.  Then they asked for the recipe.  I doubt that any of them will actually USE the recipe, since it’s much easier to just ask the Gringa to bring a pie.  But they loved it.

So at the end of last November, I cleared out the store shelf and bought a dozen cans to last throughout the year.  Wouldn’t you know it, this is the year that the store decided to stock pumpkin pie filling ALL YEAR LONG.  They’ve never had it year round until the year I stock up.  Well, never mind, I’ve been well prepared all year.

So I started THIS holiday season off right.  This past weekend I made 5 pies.  Some were for the school bake sale this week, and others were to treat my kids’ classmates to a bite of spicy heaven.  But my middle daughter has decided that she does not want to share her pie with her friends.  She would rather keep the pie here at home and make some less-coveted treat like pumpkin bars or chocolate chip cookies for her friends.  I assured her, I have more pie where those came from!

Imported Holidays

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We don’t have Halloween here in Costa Rica.  It’s still considered a pagan holiday from America.  I’ve noticed that the Fanta (soda pop) company has put up billboards with silhouettes of bats and jack-o-lanterns, but nothing over the top spooky.  It’s just not accepted here.  Some of the grocery stores dabble in selling pumpkins, but there aren’t many sold, even fewer carved, and most people only buy them as a novelty… secretly wondering how to eat the thing.  We bought 3 mini pumpkins to decorate the coffee table at home, and that is the entirety of our Halloween festivities.

I have to say, it’s really nice not to have that pressure anymore.  I don’t have to create a costume for each kid, with the ever-increasing pressure to out-do my last years’ creations.  I don’t have to buy any candy for greedy monsters and sugar-high superheros.  I don’t have to man the front door and sweat it out, hoping that my stash of goodies lasts until the last group passes by.  And I don’t have to chase my kids around an over crowded harvest celebration, trying to keep their fairy wings and wigs in place while they bounce through the carnival games and “jumpy house”.  My kids only know what Halloween is from watching “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” and from the pictures that families post on Facebook of their kids at harvest parties and church pumpkin parties.  The whole holiday is kind of on the perimeter of our awareness, but no one really cares.  I’m happy about that.

The one new, imported “holiday” that I got a kick out of last year was “Black Friday”.  Even though Costa Ricans don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, somehow the concept of Black Friday sales appeared in malls all over the country just last year.  But I thought it was funny that often the prices were not actually SALE prices and the Black Friday Sales lasted until the following Monday or Wednesday, no biggie.  So the concept is slowly catching on, just not the actual DETAILS of the “holiday”.

And I have to say, I hope it never catches on like it has in America.  Black Friday has become very frightening to those of us not obsessed with shopping.  I just can’t fathom the emotional rush that a sale can ignite in people.  The obsession to possess has in actuality possessed the obsessed!  But for Costa Rica’s sake, I hope it never gets as out of hand as it has gotten in America.  I hope they never make “Black Friday” a real holiday here… nor Halloween for that matter.  We are better off without the stress and hype of both of those imported holidays.  But I won’t object if someone sends me their left over Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups or Butterfingers.

Holiday HoHum.

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My Favorite Valentine Candies- If anyone wants to send me some, I'd love you!

When I moved overseas I carried my old culture with me.  But my holiday joy fell out when the bottom of the box broke.  Holidays just aren’t the same in another country.  You don’t realize how much emotion is packed around each holiday until you try to unpack them and realize that no one around you feels the same way about this date on the calendar.  Much of the culture built into each holiday is developed in childhood.  But if you don’t spend your childhood in this country, you don’t have all the same packaging around your memories.

Think about it.  Do you remember the first Valentine’s Day heart you decorated in Elementary school?  Probably not, but I bet you remember the joy (or stress) of passing out your cards and candy in class.  And where did you learn about Martin Luther King Day?  Probably in school.  And who doesn’t remember all the hype and build up before Easter and Halloween?- holidays synonymous with Candy in the kid world.  And what if you moved to a country where Thanksgiving and Christmas were no big deal- or worse- didn’t exist?!  Would you feel jilted if you had to go to work when your American friends and family back home were celebrating together?

Holidays aren’t the same overseas.  For us here in Costa Rica, Juan Santamaria Day just doesn’t thrill my soul.  And unless we go buy them ourselves, July 4 comes and goes without fireworks (but you can hear fireworks on random other days… like last night.).  Unless you are Catholic, Easter means a two week vacation to the beach instead of a new dress, an Easter basket, and a special church service.  No one has ever heard of the Easter Bunny here!  (And they have a Rat instead of a Tooth Fairy!  Imagine growing up with THAT legend crawling under your pillow!)

So when I unpacked my box of holiday memories, I feel the sadness of losing something that I didn’t even know I had.  We make a lot of sacrifices to be where we are and to do what we do, and this one hurts me a lot.  We do our best to replace or replicate the broken holiday joy, but it’s never the same.  We will always be outsiders on those special holidays in our adopted country, and over time, we start to forget about the American holidays that come and go without a Hallmark card reminder.  I guess holidays don’t travel well.