It’s December, be Generous

img_7608November was to be thankful, December is to be generous!!! It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, isn’t it? Everywhere we see decorations, hear Christmas carols, see the SALE signs. We have decorated our homes and are busy buying our presents. Of course, some of us  already have them. I am not that organized.

img_7600I love Christmas, but it has never been my favorite holiday. It is, though, an important part of my family’s celebrations. They simply love the whole package: from buying the tree, to decorating, to planning to spending time with loved ones, to figuring out what to give to whom. I have made it my job to organize this time every year. It’s what gives me the most pleasure, and I do it all for them. It’s a warm feeling, a feeling I revel on.

Now, in the middle of the planning, decorating and organizing, I have another important task. I remember the different charities I support during the year with my donations. I help where I think it’s most needed and there is a lot of need out there. The thought that I can bring a small amount of joy to others besides my family, really makes this the best time of the year!!!

img_7570Of course, you can do this in so many different ways. When I lived abroad, my involvement was more personal, more hands on: helping collect and wrap Sinterklaas presents for children who otherwise would not get any, helping organize a Christmas party for the elderly with the American Women’s Club.  Before that, just getting presents to people I knew needed them more than we did. Didn’t take much, but was so rewarding.

The thought that you can make a difference to one person, makes it worthy. Our lives are so much better than most, our duty is to be generous. It can be anything:  donate to a women’s shelter, volunteer to spend time with the children, visit a hospital and bring some small presents, help at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen, visit an old people’s home. Make it personal, see how your gesture makes them smile.

It’s December, it’s the month to share our good fortune, it’s the time to extend our hand in friendship. This month, more than any other, should be the time to get out there and give back!!!img_7571

Christmas Holidays!!!

IMG_1051Christmas has come and gone.  As most everyone else, I love this time of the year. On the other hand, I never know what to do: just let go and enjoy every minute or just reminisce. Those are not mutually exclusive, you would tell me, but they are in my mind. What to do!

My family loves Christmas and I have made it special throughout the years. I kept traditions, cooked, wrapped presents, decorated…I was exhausted by the time the Big Day arrived. Everyone seemed to enjoy the season, and I guess I did too. We all know this fact: Christmas is made of memories. These memories can be sad and happy, all at the same time. I am usually nostalgic at this time, as if I am thrilled and upset about having to celebrate. I have been told this is normal, whatever that means. Have never strived to be normal!!!

To be truthful, I tend to dwell on my past lives more than some during these days. Friends and family and celebrations we shared. From my earliest memories, back in Panama, when celebrations were not at all like the ones I learned to put together later on in life. Everything centered in the birth of Jesus, the manger in a place of honor with beautiful porcelain figurines. Family dinner on Christmas Eve, Midnight Mass and exchange of presents before going to bed. Everyone got enough presents to be happy, but never too many to appear wasteful. My parents were very good at this. Some days, I find myself humming Christmas carols I haven’t heard in years!!! In Spanish and very sentimental, these carols were part of my mother’s repertoire when she used to sing with us. Wonderful times.

IMG_1047Then I came to school in the States. Completely different culture, not unknown, but not totally familiar either.  Santa and stories of snowy celebrations, carols that were joyful hymns about sleighing and frightful weather and jingle bells became favorites!! I added them up to my traditions. During this time I met and married Frankie. His traditions were different, so when we had children, we adjusted and took from one and from the other and made new ones for our new family. Our children grew up with them and I have to say, it has been successful!

IMG_1043We settled in Curaçao and our Christmases became more than special. Most of Frankie’s family on the island is Jewish, so our celebration was very family oriented…very much only for ourselves! My in-laws, the children and us: dinner, presents, watching some special movies, carols. Morning Mass on Christmas Day. Those were the days when, I think, Christmas became such an important part of our family traditions: a time really for ourselves only. In many ways, it still is….but we are changing!

Since moving to Miami, new traditions have been started. We share Christmas Eve with my family and Frankie’s when we are here. He has enough cousins to make this celebration huge! We go there first. Then we go to Ana and Laura and her children. It is family, relaxed and fun. Some years, we have traveled and we have shared with friends. Of course, we have also been know to suffer from FOMO: Fear of Missing Out.  Missing the reunions with family and friends, missing the traditions, missing not sharing….just plain missing.

This year, Frank couldn’t be here for Christmas. He came the week before to celebrate with us. Dinner celebration for our anniversary and presents exchange afterwards. Worked beautifully!! The house was decorated: a real tree with all our ornaments, the ones we have bought along the years of being together, the ones the children have given us or made themselves all those years ago. Poinsettias, lights on the balcony, candles. It’s been a while since I did this.IMG_1035

Then there were the messages from friends all around the world. In these days when people are so stressed and so busy, it is wonderful to see that my friends take the time to keep in touch. Some of them do during the year, but others only touch base at this Joyous time. Never mind, all the news are important, all messages answered, good news celebrated and sympathy went out to those with not so good news…thankfully these were few and far between. These remnants of previous lives, of years spent abroad when your friends were your family and ties were formed that will always be there, make a good part of our cheer…every Christmas!

Christmas Eve was very peaceful, my family only at my sister Ana’s beautiful home….with delicious food and gift exchange. This is a time to celebrate being together and so we did.  Laughter and enjoyable recollections of times past.  It is wonderful to see that after all these years, my sisters and I still can make each other laugh. Unfortunately, I was under the weather, so Camille, Frankie and I went home early.

Next year, we will get together again and celebrate our similarities and our differences!! After all that is the real Spirit of Christmas!!!