Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A few lessons from the Grinch

I spent all night tonight wrapping Christmas presents and baking cookies. I got really into it and blasted my Christmas music and danced around a bit (something anyone who knows me will tell you I love to do)! When all was said and done, I had a stack of neatly wrapped presents and a couple of plate fulls of Pecan Puffs. Needless to say, I was in the Christmas Spirit tonight--when I went into the bathroom to finally start getting ready for bed, I noticed powdered sugar on my cheek...and in my hair.

I am really excited for Christmas this year, maybe more than I have ever been. This year, I get to travel to California and see my family for Christmas. Even better than that: I get to have TWO Christmases, one here in Germany on Dec. 24th with my wonderful German family and one in California on Dec. 25th. I get to spend two Christmases with two families I absolutely love. I couldn't be more grateful or feel more blessed.

No matter how excited I am for this Christmas, however, there is one thing I am still absolutely sick of and that is shopping. I am tired of trying to find the perfect gift, trying not to spend too little and not to spend too much. I am tired of trying things on to test the size. I am tired of slushing around in the snow carrying plastic bags filled with gifts. I just want to put the idea of gifts in the garbage! I am so happy to see the people I love. I feel so blessed at everything this year has given me. I want to bask in the warm glow of this Christmas. So why, oh why, must I give gifts and be stressed about gifts (wrapping them is the only fun part!).

Yesterday I had my very last lesson of the season with an adorable little girl who I love to teach. We had a Christmas party together, complete with homemade hot chocolate, Lebkuchen, Dominosteine, and candy canes. And we watched a movie, in English of course. The movie we watched was the recent version of "The Grinch that Stole Christmas" (with Jim Carrey). I had never seen it but I loved the theme of the movie (I had never read the Dr. Seuss book either).

In it, the Grinch sets about to ruin Christmas and encounters a little girl who is turning into a non-believer herself. The girl feels disconnected from and uninspired by Christmas. Her entire town is completely wrapped up in the extravagance of it. They buy presents, decorate their houses, have delicious feasts while barely having time or energy for each other. This little girl (together with some hilarious and ironic help from the Grinch) sets out to find the real meaning of Christmas. God how I wish that we could all be so brave...

This is what the Grinch and the girl discover:

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."

So, this is my motto this Christmas....and, hopefully, for all Christmases to come. I want to be with my family(ies) and I want to tell them I love them. I want them to know how lucky I feel to have them and I want to give myself a time to reflect on all the blessings that have been bestowed on me this year. I want to enjoy conversation and traditions, smiles and hugs. I want to forget about the ribbons, tags, boxes or bags. I want to experience a little bit more!

There was a story on CNN today (the only channel we get in English) and it (part of it at least) really made me smile. It was about the city in Turkey where St. Nickolas, the basis for the modern day Santa Claus, was a bishop. The city really worships St. Nickolas...not only the saint but the even the modern version of Santa Claus complete with his fluffy white beard and unseasonably warm (for Turkey at least) red coat. Despite the influx of modern images of Santa and this city's love for them, even the youngest children are still quick to point out what the true meaning of St. Nickolas really is: St. Nickolas, they say, wasn't a fat guy in a red suit. He was a man who gave charity to the poor and left those in need special surprises from time to time.

How we make the current tradition of Christmas out of this story, I don't think I will ever be able to understand. But, I challenge you to rethink your Christmas this Christmas. What is the Spirit of Christmas really about? What thanks can you give and love can you share? What gift giving can you leave behind? How many less fortunate individuals can you help?

I will be spending my Christmas giving my family tight, never ending hugs, visiting my amazingly strong, incredibly special grandpa (who is in the hospital right now), and counting all my blessings.

Merry Christmas everyone! Let your hearts grow three sizes larger this Christmas and see how much more fun you can have and how much more merry you can be if you would just put the presents aside.

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