Travel

An American Christmas & a happy new year!

It’s all over?!?!

I’m not sure if I’m happy, sad, relieved or distraught. I’ll be honest here, Christmas is one of my favorite holidays. Like, ever. EVVVERRR. I start listening to Christmas music as soon as the wind gets a bite to it (and sometimes even in Summer!). This year though, Christmas felt a little funky.

Since I got back from Asia, a few things have felt a little funky. For better or worse, I find myself looking at my life and the world around me through a different set of glasses than before. Everything from laundry to scrambling eggs to city infrastructure to dating, and yes, even Christmas.

This year, my Christmas was just out of a fairy tale. A beautiful tree, surrounded by family, presents galore and cherry waffles. I got an array of amazing gifts that I’m more grateful for than I have been for any gift I’ve received in the last 27 years.

I kept thinking about what it would be like in Asia – not just weather wise either. Do they have a tree to decorate? What about presents? As Americans, chocolate is a pretty common gift for us to give. What about in Asia – do they give mangoes or sticky rice? What is an Asian Christmas like?

One of the most glaring differences between Americans and Asian cultures is our consumerism. Needing to buy more, bigger and better all the time – I didn’t get a glimpse of this anywhere except Japan. Even then, most products either had “this” or “that” (vs. just “this”) as a choice. Not this, this, this, this, this OR that. Some of  you might remember  the wall of ranch I found in Krogers (overkill guys, waaaay overkill).

Some of you might wonder: “Isn’t Asia a heavily Buddhist country? Do they even celebrate Christmas?” Naturally as a huge Christmas nerd, I had the same question! While I was in Japan, I asked my Japanese host about this. She said “the country is mainly Buddhist, but we’re flexible, so we’re Christian in December! Japanese like presents.” (haha, her words!) The family I stayed with in Vietnam also has a beautiful Christmas tradition. So, just like America, not everyone celebrates Christmas, but most people do in one way or another.

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Children with Santa from the school I worked with in Vietnam

 

If  you’ve ever seen Family Guy (an adult cartoon) there is an episode where a child from Mexico receives a “ball in a cup” as a gift – and he is just so excited about it! The joke being that his family can’t afford anything better than that, and that the ball in a cup is one of the best things he’s gotten in his life so far. For me, that joke used to be stereotyping-racist, but funny. Now, it’s ‘oh-shit-just-got-real’ not so funny anymore.

When I looked at all my presents I got this year, I thought of families in Asia. By American standards, the southeast Asian countries are poor. The children that I taught at the school in Thailand would have probably killed to have a Christmas like I did- this made me feel guilty. Like I was unworthy.

Why should I get all this stuff while there are people out there who aren’t getting anything? People who would ask Santa for medicine, clean water, or bread instead of Furbys, Pokemon games, and designer jeans.

Even in America, there are plenty of people asking for the same things. The homeless, the mentally ill, elderly people, orphans and so many more. While I always knew this, it was just a concept or a fact. Having now seen extreme poverty first hand, it’s become much more real to me.

So, instead of sitting around feeling guilty about my status, I’m putting that feeling to work! For my new years resolution, I’m going to take an active role this year to help those less fortunate in any way I can. Monetary donations, volunteering, donating food, supplies – or something – every month for the next year. I challenge you to do the same!

If you’re not able to (or ready to) contribute in a physical capacity, at least challenge yourself to have a conscious appreciation for what you have in your life. The fact that you have a device to read this post on and an internet connection is a good place to start 🙂

Happy New Years everyone – welcome to 2017, the year of appreciation.

 

 

 

One Comments

  • Reply

    Meghan A.

    December 31, 2016

    Love this resolution! Your hard work is going to be needed. Happy New Year!

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