Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Eve 2008 12/24/08

Christmas Eve 2008 

Weather report:
Light snow last night
Wind calm
Temp -18c

If you'd asked me last Christmas what I would be doing at this time next year, I would have guessed many things, but not this. We are celebrating the commemoration of Jesus' birth in a country that is largely a stranger to Jesus the Christ. There are pockets of believers who are acknowledging Him today, but for the most part this is a normal business day in Novosibirsk Russia and His birth and life are far from their minds.

The big holiday here is New Years. In fact, the entire country goes on holiday for 5 days from New Year's eve. However, most people we know take off to Monday the 12th of January. Banks, services, businesses are all closed or working on skeleton crew status.

"In 1929 Soviet authorities abolished Christmas and fir-tree decorations that were declared priest-like customs. The New Year was also abandoned. However, following the article 'Let's Organize a Nice Fir-Tree for Children for the New Year!' by Pavel Postyshev, published in the major Soviet newspaper Pravda in the end of 1935, fir-trees and New Year festivities returned to people's homes on December 31, 1935. Yet, it was not until 1949 that January 1 became an official day-off."

The Russian version of Santa Claus is Father Frost. I quote Amanda Kendle's internet article on him. "Father Frost (the Russian name sounds something like Ded Moroz . . . is purported to look similar to our Santa, only he has no reindeer and doesn't come secretly through the chimney. Instead, he visits children in person at New Year's Eve parties and brings them gifts. He's accompanied by his granddaughter, the Snow Maiden (Snegurochka), and both of them spend the rest of the year in residence in the Russian town of Veliky Ustyug."

Last night sister Simmons fed 15 missionaries a Simmons traditional dinner with roast beef (I think), mashed potatoes, Broccoli & cauliflower, cranberry jello, rolls, and red velvet cake/ice cream for desert. They had one hour to enjoy Christmas Dinner before hitting the streets again for meetings and contacting (a street form of tracting). She stayed up (me too) until past 2 AM to be sure it was all ready and we then left the office at 2 PM to get her home to do the actual cooking while I went with the office elders to get haircuts (better this time).

This picture of our Christmas table shows only the faces and cannot show either their hearts or our. Mine, I know, was filled with love for them and nostalgia for my family and our own traditions that many of my children are carrying on in our absence. I am so proud of them and pleased that they value the things we did to continue them in their own homes. Traditions are the cement that join the generations and preserve our culture. I love our traditions and treasure them and the memories of times past with our children and friends.

Today we mix these old traditions with our new circumstances and begin new traditions as we are hosting several elders who will call their families on our SKYPE though the morning. About 11 AM Yuri Gushin will pick us for the Mickelsen's and we will spend the day with the missionaries singing carols, watching "It's a Wonderful Life" and playing games. It is truly a rest day for the missionaries.
These are some of the best people on earth at this time. They have come where they were called, to this dark place to bring some light to those seeking it. They light people's little candle and cast small pools of light into the darkness. As these candles gather together in clusters, they light their little corner of this dark place. Some day they will be torches and bonfires where now they are just small candles flickering in the wind of opposition that threatens to extinguish them. We are here to add fuel to their flames and help them to shield that flame from the storm.

What a country. What a time of year. What a privileged.

1 comment:

Trisha said...

Yes the food tradition is one of the best. I love to see all the happy faces and the joy and love comes through. However next time we will send the necessary items for the traditional coconut cake. We love and miss you but are greatful for the blessings. Merry Christmas.