“Christmas is the day that holds all time together.”

Last night my house was festive with all the lights lit, both back and front. The star on the fence is so bright you’d swear it swooped down from the sky just for the occasion. Late yesterday afternoon I went to Agway just for dog food and a red bow for the sled outside, but I should have known better. I ended up buying poinsettias, small ones for a cart in my dining room, a rosemary tree which fills the house with its fragrance, a small wreath for the gate, a larger wreath for the front door and a juniper swag for the mantle. The only thing left is the tree, but I say that with tongue in cheek.

It’s been a bit colder the last few days, in the mid to high 40′s, but it’s still not winter. Yesterday in one store I saw a woman wearing mittens, and I wondered if she was from a warm place.

People have started wishing each other a Merry Christmas. I’ve been hearing it in the stores when friends greet each other. I guess the season really is upon us. I opened day two of my advent calendar this morning, and it was a tree waiting to be decorated. I took my time placing the ornaments in exactly the right spots.

The only two times I was away at Christmas was when I was in the Peace Corps. I was 22, but I was still a kid at Christmas, and I was missing the snow, the lights and the tree and mostly I was missing my mother teasing me about my gifts, something she did all of her life. “Guess what I just bought you,” was what I’d hear this time of year. I’d pepper her with questions and get a hint which was really no hint at all. She sent me a box, air mail no less, just before my first Christmas away. It had a small artificial tree, some ornaments from our own tree, brick crepe paper to make a fireplace and a stocking. I decorated right away and felt a little less lonely.

A story I have told here before is one I’d like to tell again as that night still means so much to me. It was my first year in Bolgatanga. Christmas time in northern Ghana is the time of the harmattan. The days are hot, hot enough to melt a candle hot, but the nights are cold or at least cold in comparison. I kept my windows open so I could feel the cold, but I put a wool blanket on my bed to keep me warm. One night I was feeling sorry for myself missing Christmas and my family and was lying in bed trying to fall asleep when I heard someone singing We Three Kings. It was the only sound in the night, and it traveled through the clear air from one of the compounds near my house. I could tell it was a young boy. He sang each verse so clearly and so beautifully I was filled with all sorts of feelings especially joy at this gift he was giving me. Every year since then I have remembered that Christmas and that small boy and the most wonderous gift I was given.

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17 Comments on ““Christmas is the day that holds all time together.””

  1. olof1 Says:

    It is freezing cold here now. I went to the super market on my way home and when I went in to the store it was rather warm outside. When I got out again after twenty minutes it was freezing cold and ice on the ground! The fire in the stove has problems spreading its heat in the cottage now. I might have to start a radiator or two tonight.

    No Christmas wishes here yet, we’re still on the advent wishes :-) Christmas wishes won’t come until the last week before it happens.

    That is a nice memory Youe have there. My best memory is from before I moved here. I drove to the cottage i rented just before christmas and it was placed in the middle of the forest far far away from any humans. At christmas eve night I walked out of the cottage and stood in the snow listening to absolutely nothing :-) It was only me, my dog and the stars that night :-)

    Have a great day!
    Christer.

    • katry Says:

      Christer,
      My sister had your cold earler in the week when it was 11°. Her weather usually shows up here in 5 or 6 days so I guess it’s time to pull out the woolies.

      The advent calendar is really just a countdown to Christmas. I think it was a way to keep us from hounding our mother about how many days. She always sent us one every year no matter how old we were.

      That is a beautiful memory. I think ths silence and the stars are the best of all.

      • olof1 Says:

        Yes Those calendars :-) I loved those with chocolat figures in them :-) and swedish televisions makes a new tv series for children as a calendar every year. This year it’s about thiefs steeling all presents :-) :-) Naturally it will all be solved at christams eve :-)

  2. Bob Says:

    It’s supposed to get cold on Sunday and Monday. In the western areas of North Texas they could get snow flurries. When it’s cold in December I always remember the song “It’s Begining to Look a Lot Like Christmas.” “The Christmas Song”, by Mel Torme, is my favorite holiday song. He wrote it in LA in the 1940s before airconditioning in July during a heat wave. I guess thinking about Chestnuts roasting on an open fire made him feel cooler. It’s a classic.

    When was the other time that you were not at home for Christmas?

    • katry Says:

      Bob,
      I suspect we’ll be getting cold about the same time. I can’t complain though as it was the warmest November on record. I too love that song, but then I am a lover of Christmas music of all sorts. The Nat King Cole Christmas Song is my all time favorite.

      It was the second year I was in the Peace Corps, but it wasn’t like My friends had moved close and it was like having family.

  3. Zoey & Me Says:

    I love that story. It brought you peace. Fond memories of home. We sent off presents to Rebecca realzing it took six weeks to get to Chivona depending upon the bus schedules out of Harrara. For some reason they always arrived after the first. So it became a New Years present by then. She too missed Christmas but since school was out ventured to Victoria Falls with all the other Peace Corps Volunteers and from that location could call home. IT was the kind of connection that faded in and out and since she called collect cost $116 for 5mins. We learned to talk fast back then. Your decorations are perfect for the season and the odors I love most. When does you pine tree arrive?

    • katry Says:

      Z&Me,
      My presents usually arrived late January so I don’t know how I’d refer to them. I didn’t care though. Getting that package was great fun.

      That first year so many volunteers were traveling north into other countries through my town we had a party, sang carols and ate. I do remember someone saying we can sing anything except I’ll Be Home for Christmas.

      I called once from Accra. I remember it had to be set up a day in advance, and I paid. It was a surprise call. This time I had a cell phone I bought in Ghana, and I just used minutes when I called the US, not all that money it had cost me the first time. My sisters and brother-in-law were thrilled I call. They always worry when I travel alone.

  4. Bill S. Says:

    Our first Christmas in Africa was spent in Lome, Togo, after which we returned to Accra, and unexpectedly had Kevin a few weeks early. Our second Christmas was in Bolga, but I don’t remember if we stayed there or traveled somewhere. Maybe you remember? Our third Christmas in Ghana was spent in Bolga–Lisa was born on Dec. 23rd, so Peg spent Christmas Day in hospital in Bolga.

    When I go out for the morning paper at 5:30, the winter sky is clear and bright with stars–we have no light pollution here in Mont Vernon. In Bolga we often (actually every night!) enjoyed the African night sky, also filled with stars,except as you mentioned during harmattan. The experience was always enhanced with a Star or Club beer, mostly warm, and yes, we did inhale!

    • katry Says:

      Bill,
      We did stuff every day during the Christmas holiday. Kevin was on your back, and I had Peg on my bike. I remember we took meat and a small charcoal pot and went to Tongo. A man came and yelled at us that we were using the sacred rock. Small boys ringing us and watching as we ate said no. On our way out, your bike stopped for no reason. We laughed and decided it was the old man. Another day we took a lunch and paid guys to take our motos across a river, and we ate lunch by a village water hole. I don’t remember other days nut we tried to do something every day.

      The sky was so amazing at night I swear we could read by the light. Never did I watch too long without seeing a falling star. The nights were spectacular and one of my cherished memories.

      Remember riding into town at night for food and seeing the line of lit lamps along the side of the road from the aunties selling food? I always loved that night sight too.

      I was never one for Star and Club but the inhaling part…..

  5. bill s. Says:

    Now that you mention it, I do remember the river and the water hole, as well as huge granite boulders everywhere. I thought at the time, “Maybe we are the first non-Africans to venture here.” Thanks for the reminder. I guess we all have different memories of our experiences and how they affected us.

    I do remember going to Lome, Togo just before we returned home after our first year in Ghana. We were in a taxi and saying how we had just completed the third leg of our journey, when we saw a one-legged man on crutches, and how we laughed about that!

    • katry Says:

      Bill,
      At the river we gave the man half a cedi and told him we’d give them the other half if he waited until we were finished-he did!

      I think that is hysterical-the poor man but he makes for a great story.

      I have so many memories they fill my head sometimes. When I got to Bolga this time, I remembered what used to be where as it is so big the landmarks have disappeared or are hidden by buildingd. What I lamented was the missing family compounds which used to be all around. Now you have to go to villages like Bongo to see them.

      I remember when you had weird worms and I remember we played Password so many times we knew the cards by heart and we duped several visitors who thought we were amazing. We made a tape one night to the backdrop of the drumming and singing from the compounds behind us. I remember only a few lines, and they were awful. “Where did you get that wound?. In the Corps. The marine corps? No, the Peace Corps.” Cue the drumming and yelling!

  6. Lori Kossowsky Says:

    Kat,
    I’ve been tired of late, but have faithfully read your blog. I think I like enjoying the holiday season vicariously thru you. Your memory of the child singing We Three Kings, I’m counting as my first holiday gift– it is beautiful.
    My memories of the holidays are extremely tangled. I do remember one year when my friend and I put up a small fake Christmas tree that was silver, which I had salvaged from a store near my apartment. We decorated it, and left the house to do some shopping. Big mistake. By the time we returned, our cats let us know how much they enjoyed our decorations.
    We’ve actually had a few summer like days these past few days.
    Tonight I have tickets to see Chris Williamson. I saw her over 30 years ago and am excited about seeing her tonight.
    Still Waving,
    Lori

    • katry Says:

      Lori,
      Thanks for being so faithful.

      My head has so many Christmas memories. My mother loved the season and so did we because of her.

      My house is decorated and the tree is up though not yet decorated. I’m exhausted just from the tree lights and my back is complaining madly.

      I have a small aluminum tree my sister gave me as she knows I’ve always wanted one. Now all I need is a tiny light wheel.

      Wednesday my sister and I atr seeing a Christmas play-a long time tradition.


  7. Hmmm … day off (12/03/2011)?!? You ok?

    s

    • katry Says:

      Scott,
      It was unintentional. Skip, my factotum, came to help haul boxes up from the cellar, put a few Christmas decorations up around the house and pick up the tree. With the tree up and steady, he started the lights so I figured I’d get to Coffee then I saw Skip and his tree lights. He has no esthetic sense whatsoever, and we ended up working until after 5-too late for Coffee.

      Sorry for the long tale!
      Thanks for checking!

  8. katry Says:

    Thanks, Scott

    I’m glad people are keeping an eye-I’d hate to be the old lady whose papers pile in the driveway.


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