Thanksgiving doesn’t have feelings.

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With Ugandan Santa in November 2013.

Before living in Uganda in 2013, I was a hardcore “no Christmas ANYTHING until after Thanksgiving” type of person. I felt like doing anything Christmas before Thanksgiving was just, well, rude. Who were we to pull out our red and green before the calendar was done with orange and brown? How dare anyone disrespect Thanksgiving!

But in Uganda… there was no Thanksgiving. I even went to work on Thanksgiving because, well, it’s not a holiday in Uganda. We went to Christmas craft shows in early November. We put up our tree in November. We even started listening to “All I Want for Christmas is You,” and no one judged us! Basically, we didn’t have to worry about hurting Thanksgiving’s feelings because it didn’t exist in Uganda.

When I came back to the U.S. in 2014, I found myself wanting to experience Christmas cheer before Thanksgiving. But I felt awful. I felt terrible. NO CHRISTMAS UNTIL AFTER THANKSGIVING! We simply cannot celebrate Jesus’ birth with trees and tinsel until after Turkey Day!

Last year was really difficult. I felt the Christmas itch in mid-November, and it was strong. There is so much crap in the world, and Christmas is all about JOY and HOPE! Couldn’t we all use a little more joy and hope? However, people around me said, “Don’t do it! It’s not even Thanksgiving!”

I ended up caving about a week before Thanksgiving. I decorated for Christmas. It felt great. It prolonged the joy I feel from Christmas decorations. It made me happy. And I would love to decorate my home for Christmas right now, in early November. I’ve had my fall decorations out since September, and I’m tired of orange and an unimaginable number of pumpkins. But the world (eh hem, Facebook) tells me that I can’t decorate for Christmas yet. It’s disrespectful to Thanksgiving!

IMG_9560Then it hit me. An incredible, unbelievable, thought occurred to me: Thanksgiving doesn’t have feelings. Thanksgiving will not have even one negative thought about me putting my tree up before its special day. This is because Thanksgiving doesn’t have thoughts. Or feelings. It’s a holiday.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Thanksgiving. I love the food and fellowship. I’ll wear my turkey scarf on Thanksgiving proudly. Thanksgiving will have its day!

Another thing to think about, though, is how late Thanksgiving is this year: November 28. That leaves less than four weeks until Christmas. If you’re like me, you put A LOT of work into your Christmas decorations. To do all that work and enjoy it for less than a month is just sad, especially knowing it brings so much joy.

I will not offend Thanksgiving by decorating for Christmas. Thanksgiving doesn’t have feelings. I recently saw a post on Facebook that was going viral. It read: “How about instead of rushing from Halloween to Christmas, we use November as a month of THANKS to properly prepare our hearts to celebrate Christmas for what it is really about, the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

The comments were hilarious, in my opinion. So many people were saying, “Amen!” And someone even said, “So sad that you even had to say that to remind people.”

Wait… it’s sad that people “rush” into Christmas? What exactly is so sad about it? Thanksgiving doesn’t have feelings, it’s not sad if I put my tree up before it’s had its day. And I don’t know about you, but I try to be thankful year-round. I try to prepare my heart for whatever God has in store for me every single day! Decorating for Christmas has nothing to do with whether or not I’m thankful OR preparing my heart for the birth of Jesus.

I will say, most of the “haters” on social media do it in good fun. They just like razzing their friends about decorating for Christmas before Thanksgiving. And I used to be one of them, until I realized how much joy my Christmas decorations bring me each year. But some people are really nasty about it, and it baffles me. Especially those who act like Thanksgiving will be hurt and wounded by it.

Whether you’re a strict, “No Christmas until after Thanksgiving” type of person, or a “Bring on the Christmas cheer NOW!” type of person, you do you. And know that if you do decorate for Christmas before Turkey Day, Thanksgiving will not be offended. Thanksgiving doesn’t have feelings. So spread that Christmas cheer!

Christmas is Wednesday? Are you sure?

There is a little boy with a small homemade broom sweeping the dirt in front of his tiny home across theIMG_4842 street from us right now. His mother is hanging lots of colorful laundry on the line, and his father appears to be mashing up something for lunch.

The intense Ugandan sun is beating down on the tin roofs of the shacks behind our apartment. The beautiful, towering palm trees are a stark contrast to the dirty, rickety homes surrounded by chickens and naked children.

I hear birds- lots and lots of different birds who sing their songs from the tree tops where they no doubt have the best view of Lake Victoria and the rest of Kampala.

Our day guard is sitting under his favorite tree, wearing the same t-shirt and pants he has worn for the past few weeks. My friend’s little boy approaches him with a stuffed Sponge Bob and hands it to him. The guard, who appears to be only about 15, just kind of looks at it and hands it back. He speaks no English so we know absolutely nothing about him… except that he likes to climb trees.

IMG_4847I get a whiff of the familiar nauseating smell that so often permeates around our apartment. From our second-story balcony I can see piles of trash in the nearby field. Chickens and goats rummage through it to find something to eat, and a handful of Ugandan children play soccer, dodging the hordes of garbage people have dropped off in the field.

A rooster crows and someone turns on their radio. A local radio host gives the morning news report in Luganda. The sound of it is temporarily interrupted by a big truck driving by, carrying policemen in the back who proudly hold their rifles as if to say, “Don’t mess with us.”

It is hot. It is smelly. It is dirty. It is beautiful. It is Uganda.

And it is Christmastime.

You would never know it.

Sure, inside our apartment we have nativity scenes, a small Christmas tree, even stockings hung. But other than that, it’s life as usual for most people around here.IMG_4844

I don’t want to go off on the whole, “Christmas isn’t about all that commercial stuff anyway” tangent that so many people seem to go off on. While that’s true, I don’t think God has any problems with decorations and festivities that celebrate Jesus’ birth. And I’m not going to pretend that I don’t miss all of that. For me, it’s a big part of what makes Christmas special.

Christmas is different this year. For 32 years I’ve spent Christmas day with my mom and dad, and this will be the first year that I don’t. However, it’s also the first year that I’m 100% sure that I’m exactly where God wants me to be. I am blessed, I am thankful, and I am humbled by this experience. I am thankful for a Savior who loves me enough to send me here.

For some reason, God didn’t want me around the glitz and glam of an American Christmas in 2013. He wanted me in Uganda… surrounded by chickens and goats, and a group of new friends who have become like family.

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A Penguin Riding a Peppermint…

Some people like big, perfectly decorated and color-coordinated Christmas trees. I don’t disagree, those trees are beautiful, but what I love is the type of Christmas tree that I grew up with. No rhyme or reason, no color coordination, and no “theme” other than “a bunch of random ornaments from throughout the years.”

I used to love decorating the tree with my mom and dad. We’d pull out our favorite ornaments from over the years and almost always add a new one or two to the collection. Since I left college, I’ve taken over the decorating of the tree, and I still get excited when I pull out my favorite ornaments. Most of them wouldn’t do well in the stores. Most are old, some are falling apart, and I think one is even molding. But for me, Christmas ornaments aren’t about the glitz and the glam- they are about that happy feeling I get just seeing them on the tree.

IMG_20121130_200915My Favorite
I didn’t even remember where this one came from, but my mom says it was from my babysitter who lived next door. For as long as I can remember decorating the tree, this has been my favorite ornament. I love penguins, and the fact that he’s riding a peppermint is super cute to me. This is always the first ornament I put on the tree, and it always goes towards the top.

 

IMG_20121130_200955Handmade Ornaments
They look pretty rugged, but I love the ornaments I made in preschool and IMG_20121130_201038elementary school. I don’t know what the moon is made of- it is almost like a cookie. The candy cane I painted when I was two is another favorite, and I adore the dove I painted. What makes it especially unique is the bright yellow piece of yarn it hangs from. Sure it would look classier hanging from a hook or a silver ribbon of some kind, but it’s the yellow yarn I remember most. I’ll never change that.

Grandma’s OrnamentsIMG_20121130_201007
What’s super cool about my little pre-lit tree is the fact that it was my grandma’s tree when she lived in assisted living. I also got a few of her ornaments after she passed away. My favorite is this clear bulb filled with snow and a piece of paper that says her name, “Rita.” I’m brought to tears when I put it on the tree, as I miss her so much that it hurts.

IMG_20121130_200430This year my other grandma was put into the nursing home. Just today my dad brought me a box of ornaments from my grandma’s attic. I’m so excited to add them to my collection, and I know they will always make me think of my grandma.

 

IMG_20121130_200903Ornaments Around the Globe
Within the past five years, I’ve started buying ornaments as mementos of my trips. When I was ina Niger, Africa in 2009, there were no ornaments to purchase. Not only is it a Muslim country, but it’s not a tourist destination. However, I did find a few keychains to buy, and I use one as an ornament.

On that same trip, I purchased an ornament on our long layover in Paris. Another one of my favorite ornaments from my travels is the one from Cozumel. I can’t wait to get an ornament in Zambia this summer!

New Ornaments
My parents know that I love me a cute moose. So when they went on an Alaskan IMG_20121130_201217cruise this past fall, they had lots of opportunities to get me something with a moose on it. Sure enough, I ended up with a moose ornament, and this handmade clay ornament is one of my new favorites!

My tree and ornaments may not be worth a lot of money, but I don’t care. You really couldn’t put a price on the memories and the sentimental value they have in my heart.