Several weeks ago I found myself sitting in church waiting for the Christmas Spectacular to begin. Obviously I was pretty excited. Anything with both Spectacular and Christmas in the title deserves quite a bit of anticipation. I of course was sporting my Christmas plaid shirt in honor of the joyful time of the year. Although I look around and apparently it is not really a thing in Australia to dress Christmassy for Christmas gatherings. Most people just wear nice normal not Christmas colored, no jingle belled clothing. Luckily I had the good foresight to leave my huge red tacky Christmas sweater with the bells sewn on at home. Oh, well — many of time I have been dressed quite differently than the norm and survived to tell the tale. This was just another opportunity for my confidence to grow and my pride to dwindle a bit. So I am sitting there on the edge of my seat waiting for the magnificent show to begin and I begin to converse with the lovely lady next to me. This seems to happen to me quite often. I go somewhere by myself, other people see me and talk to me. Don’t get me wrong, I personally love it. But it always makes me wonder what they think. Do they think that I am alone because I don’t have any friends? Do they think I am alone because there are people I know in the production? Do they feel sorry for me? Or are they just intrigued by an action that they would be timid to try?
Not that I really think that the kind lady who had a lovely conversation with actually wouldn’t go to a social event completely alone, however there is a certain stigma I think. One that most people try to avoid. This feeling like an outsider looking in. Or a young adult sitting at the kids table wondering why the adults are all laughing— we have all been there. I am beginning to think that I have become the expert outsider. In fact it is very hard not to seem like an outsider, when my accent gives me away in about 2 seconds. Literally, people ask where I am from and I say the states and they give me this pity look saying with their eyes — well duh, I knew that already. Well why do they bother to ask then.. Anyway I digress.
Being and outsider is great. I would highly suggest that all people purposely put themselves into social situations that stretch their own comfort zone. Not only do you have the opportunity to learn about yourself, but watch other people react to your outsiderness is absolutely fascinating. It makes some people so incredibly uncomfortable that they are forced to break the tension. Others look, then divert eye contact, change their body position to remove you from their peripheral vision. While still others wouldn’t even be able to tell an outsider from an in. All of this just to say, being in a new place with new place really does have so many positive points.
But suddenly it’s Christmas; The most wonderful time of the year. Where kids jingle bells, marshmallows are toasted, ghost stories are told — apparently… I think I need to catch up on my Christmas ghost stories, but that’s not the point. Everyone is telling everyone to be of good cheer. Goodness knows I love good cheer. On most days you can find me in the kitchen belting out Disney songs while I wash dishes. Or having a dance party to ‘Shake it Off’. Or sending unattractive faces over Snapchat to make someone’s day better. So naturally Christmas has always been my personal favorite holiday. The music, the parties, the cookies, the decorations, the lights, Santa, gift giving and receiving, quirky sweaters, the excuse to say hello to everyone you meet. It is all just so wonderful. But what about when you’re the outsider.
I would love to say that Christmas is solely a holiday celebrating a baby being born over 2000 years ago. Alas, these days it is had morphed and grown into a monster holiday. A monster holiday that I love every second of, not to get me wrong. It is a holiday that now celebrates a multitude of things. It celebrates all of the friendships you have, the romantic partner you love — I wouldn’t know from personal experience but ‘Love Actually’ seems to portray the importance of romantic love near Christmas; It celebrates the baking, cooking, decorating skills of each household. Celebrates the monetary wealth of each individual. Celebrates our nice or not so nice behavior throughout the year. Pretty much everything is celebrated in this one day.
With all of this expected celebration to happen on such a day, there is a magnitude of anticipation. Thus for weeks leading up to Christmas I was anticipating my Aussie Christmas and what it would entail for me. I was gathering my information about the impending holiday from a variety of sources: People back home, strangers who ask what I’m doing on Christmas, Friends I’ve met here, Jo, and of course my own mind. You see I’ve had such an anticipation of Christmases throughout the years with many traditions and events that occur only during this time of year in Knoxville — that suddenly it hit me. I was going to have a very different Christmas. I’d like to say here that I took this idea well. That I reminded myself how important it is to do new and challenging and crazy things. That I remained optimistic about being rather far away from everything I know during the most wonderful time of the year. I would love to report how perfectly I handled having holidays away from home — But I am a pretty terrible liar.
For what felt like the first time in my life I felt utterly homesick. Not the kind of homesick you get when you are away from home for a few weeks and you miss Mom’s cooking. Nope the kind of homesick that seems like devastation. I realized that I would not be at the family, friends, and loved ones gatherings back home. I realized that all the things I love about Christmas just really are not the same here. So in general I feel like a bear trying to fit in with lions on a hunt. No please take a moment and imagine. The lions all like to work together and skillfully and gracefully take down the Zebra or gazelle or other African prey, then among them is this huge brown bear who runs in trying to own the place, but is quite the opposite of graceful and has no idea what the plan is. The lions luckily pity the bear and give him some meat from their stash. Maybe not the best metaphor, but it is a pretty hilarious image in my head.
So here I am stuck in the land of Oz, just tapping my heels together wishing to go home. When something quite wonderful happens. I with some great guidance realize how stupid I am. I am sorry if I have ever fooled you into believing in my cleverness, wit, or intelligence; this really does prove that I need to reevaluate my logic and ability to rationalize. Sitting here in front of me is a maybe once in a lifetime opportunity to completely immerse myself in another country’s Christmas. So the day comes… Christmas day. Then day I have been dreading because I believe I will be disappointed when all of my traditions are lost.
Instead I got to amp up my traditions. Normally I participate in a nativity pageant back in Knoxville. This year I got to participate and freaking carry the cutest un-named lamb of the year. It was soft and liked to speak and kick me, but I totally forgive him for that. I also got to watch two beautiful bright eyed children open their presents from Santa, as well this year I got to help pick out, wrap, and deliver part of Santa’s stash. Normally I bake like 100 cookies, this year I got to bake cookies, make strawberry Santas, make a Cupcake Christmas tree, and eat them too!
So I’d like to say although I am stupid for not realizing sooner how lucky I am, it has been the hardest and best December of my life. You see it is much more difficult and rewarding to search for the Joy that comes from Christmas alone, not special presents, or parties, or favorite friends, or family. Just to Joy of celebrating the day Aussie style. Which by the way I can now say I have spent Christmas on a beach in shorts, playing cricket. I also ate a magical dessert called Pavalova — which will definitely be a new tradition in my life. So delicious.