Here is what Christmas was to me in Lebanon – Ammatour, the village:
- The scent of live Christmas trees cut fresh from the woods
- Someone dressed up as someone else (Not always a white bearded man with a belly and a red robe) with a bag on their back distributing gifts
- Family gatherings around the fire, exchanging gifts and opening hand written cards, paper photos with stories written on the back and recorded tapes from family members living abroad
- Cracking chestnuts to bake them on our wood-heater
- I have not yet met any Christian person, not even a Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist or a self-identified atheist for that matter. I haven’t yet seen a church besides the deserted/destroyed one we had in our village.
Here is what Christmas was to me in Lebanon – Beirut, the city:
- Fake collapsible reusable storable Christmas trees
- Exchanging Christmas cards, a lot of them, the best were handmade
- Midnight mass with my friends, waiting for “baby jesus” to be placed in the manger displayed in Sassine, Achrafieh
- Streets competing to display the best decoration/lighting and the biggest trees
- Church bells jingling – Christmas music playing in Hamra street – random groups chanting Christmas carols on AUB’s campus – trying to predict at what unannounced church Fairuz will show up
- “Merry Christmas” by everyone regardless if religious or not, believer or not, Christian or not
Here is what Christmas was to me in the USA:
- A Menorah by each Christmas tree
- Receiving Christmas cards by snail mail
- Long distance with loved ones and family
- I see churches but I hear no bells.
- An apparent social ban on “Merry Christmas” and being introduced to the novel term: “Happy Holidays”
- Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, Black Friday… and IRS also comes to mind
Here is what Christmas is to me in Canada:
- Reminiscing the scent of Christmas trees and the coziness of a white Christmas in Ammatour
- Longer distance to family, shortened via FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp, and Facebook
- Chestnuts on Vancouver’s Robson street evoking nostalgia with its smell and that cracking sound
- Reminiscing Beirut’s church bell jingles (and Azan for that matter)
- “Do you celebrate Christmas?” as in “Is it safe to wish you a Merry Christmas?”
- Creating new memories with new friends and chosen families
- Expressing how I feel about Christmas via a blog post
Merry Christmas to everyone, to those who celebrate it religiously, socially or not at all.
Disclaimer: The above is based on personal experiences and constitutes no judgement, generalization or criticism. It is what first came to my mind when I thought about how I personally experienced Christmas in different places where I lived.