In the spirit of my friend Serene's recent post, here is a reflection on a favorite childhood memory: Christmases without snow.
In a predominantly Muslim and Buddhist culture, Christmas was the "Christian holiday." Around the church compound, the trees twinkled with lights for all to admire. It was indeed a moment to be proud that I belong to this church. That it was Christmas. That Christians were celebrating.
For the church, it was the most festive day of the year. The buildings were swarmed with people dressed in their best attires on Christmas Eve. By swarmed, I mean there were three or four services right up to midnight and each service was packed and overflowed with seas of people.
Those who did not usually go to church came on Christmas Eve. Services were more evangelistic in nature, and the Gospel was presented. There were candles and dancing, plays and choirs. There seemed to be hundreds of children, each rejoicing over the bag of gift they received. Each contained an apple, some sweets, and other junk foods. I remember dancing with the tambourine alongside my friends, singing O Holy Night. I do still love that song.
On the first Christmas Eve my family spent together in the States, we arrived at church half an hour before the service, for fear that there would be no where to park. We were so puzzled when we found the parking lot empty. The sanctuary was empty. People slowly trickled in and when the service started, the building was barely half-filled.
I now understand that here in the States, people travel on Christmas and most of the celebration is done prior to Christmas day. But Oh, how I missed the festivities, the crowds, and the faces, not at the mall or the airport, but at church.