“The magi, as you know, were wise men – wonderfully wise men – who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication.”
From “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry
When I asked my writers’ community what Christmas means to them, I got various responses outlining family drama, $30 movie vouchers, time with children in the family, a day to put down the tools, stop working, cricket, indulging in the loveliness of a Bailey’s Coffee for breakfast, prawns and a delicious South African dessert cocktail called Don (Dom) Pedro.
One person expressed sadness for not having his family around him for this special time of year as they live overseas and another expressed disappointment that the emphasis has been taken away from Christ and spirituality. Christmas has its roots in Pagan tradition in the Northern Hemisphere and started off as a festival in the darkest of times to attract the sun back. It meant getting together with friends, eating, drinking and debauchery.
Over the years, I’ve felt all the stings of family drama, homesickness, a longing for spiritual meaning and sympathy for my struggles trying to adapt to a new life in a new country. This was all before accepting my gift as a storyteller.
Christmas is now a feeling of peace and stillness within me. I can commune with the spirit within the church that is my family near and far. Even Mum and Dad, who are in Istanbul and DC are with me because they are within me. I can always call them for a video chat too and if everyone has the intention to connect, we will be together. So many people share a physical space without truly connecting.
This year, I accept that I’m as flawed as everyone else and as such, I don’t have to offer the trendiest of presents, or the most ethical of gifts, and heck, so what if I don’t bring anything to the table? I’m present. That’s all that matters.
Eating, Drinking, Being Merry
And how about all that seafood for lunch, champagne, ham and turkey and red wine for dinner? We are very fortunate to have all of these things at our table. Rejecting them can make no difference to the lives of the people who are starving around the world.
How can Christmas be a force for good and not selfishness? I think it starts with appreciating what we have so with that enjoyment we can open ourselves up to sharing these things with those less fortunate. The less fortunate don’t have to be people in Africa, because I’ll be honest, I personally don’t know any starving children in Africa but I am aware of people in my community who would appreciate my kids’ books and toys.
The concept of clearing space, letting go and giving must become a part of the Christmas narrative otherwise, I don’t know how we’ll fit into our homes with the flurry of presents my kids alone receive and thank God for the presents and those who give them too.
As for receiving presents, I’ve let my family know that pre-loved, handmade and homemade presents are welcomed.
This year, while we’re eating, drinking and being merry, my intention is to start a conversation about those who might appreciate some of the stuff we no longer use. It’s a small conversation, but one that will grow.
Sharing Your Unique Gift
Nothing brings me more pleasure than constructing stories. I appreciate others, mainly musical writers, who’ve told some of the most memorable tales of all time. One that sticks in my mind as a holiday classic is “Rent”, not just for the story told on stage but for the life and death of its writer, Jonathan Larson, whose heart literally burst open, the day his show premiered Off-Broadway.
It is in hopes that I too will be blessed with the opportunity to have staged a musical one day (even in our own living room!) that I’ve made this wrap-up video for 2020 to the song “Seasons of Love” from “Rent”. “Frozen” fans may recognize Elsa’s voice (Idina Menzel).
This is how I share my gift for storytelling this year with my community. The picture for this article comes from a talented local artist Katrina Frigillana and am grateful that she’s shared her gift with me. I’m also very grateful to Nicola at The Village Observer for editing and publishing my pieces about the lives and times of some of the older members of our community and Abbie for sharing her editing skills with me.
Karen, Bev, Pam, Hae-Lyun, Anne, Tim, Grant, Zena and Craig, thank you all for the inspiration you’ve provided for this article.
Over to you…
What gifts has 2020 brought to your life and how will you share your gratitude for all the accomplishments and challenges the year has blessed you with?