I got my first white Christmas here in Oregon this year, and my first Christmas away from my immediate nuclear family. Neither were quite what I expected. It snowed on Christmas Day but it never stuck on the ground where we were, even though it seemed to snow most of the day.
And spending Christmas with my grandma was a really great thing to do. It sounds cheesy but I’ve learned a lot of really important things about family through the process. See, at first it was really tempting to just ignore the fact that Christmas was coming… completely. I think at some level I was thinking, if I just ignore Christmas completely maybe I won’t realize how sad I am, how much I miss my family. But I guess it just doesn’t work that way. Getting to spend Christmas with grandma and my uncle’s family meant I cried several times through the day, but it also meant I learned how much my *other* family loves me, too. And that’s a great lesson to learn.
Part of growing up overseas means that as much as your family may love you, you just didn’t see them every holiday. Not even every year. And if you grow up in an international community like most missionary kids or military kids or embassy kids or business kids… then everyone else around you isn’t very close with their families, either. Your parents had to separate from their families at some level in order to function. And growing up telephone calls were a 9-hour drive away and too expensive to say much more than, “I love you,” and “Merry Christmas.” So sometimes it’s hard to connect to your family, as much as they may want to do so. So I think my favorite Christmas present this year is learning more about my extended family, and learning (experientially!) how much they love me, and how much we need each other.