I have been dreading the Christmas season since first coming out here but now that it has arrived, it's not bad at all. It was nearly half over by the time I realized it was upon us. I came home from 24 hours in Kumba to find both Friesen and Scott residences had blossomed with decorations in my absence. (Traditionally, it's my role to help my mom decorate on the first Sunday of Advent, so I feared being involved in someone else's Christmas-making ceremony would bring on homesickness.)

Initially I reasoned: I fully acknowledge that the traditions we celebrate at Christmas are just that -- traditions, and fairly syncretistic ones at that -- so I don't really want to celebrate Christmas at all here, missing so many of the important elements of celebration, beloved family and friends being key, though frankly snow plays a large role, too. I figured -- I'm in Cameroon; I should celebrate Cameroonian style.

The first change in my attitude came from an encouragement from a sage and worldly-wise acquaintance to use this opportunity, of having those elements from home stripped away, to focus on the essence of Christmas, to have a very meaningful Christmas and thus gain fresh perspective to bring to Christmases to come when I'm back in a familiar milieu.

The second came with my great disappointment from going to church in Bekondo on 2nd Advent to hear a sermon on Zacchaeus and nary an Advent-related song. Christmas may have accrued all kinds of commercial and secular North American associations (as well as a number of pagan European ones), but it is still a Christian holiday at heart and a significant and important part of the church calendar. I don't believe it's necessary to celebrate it in any particular way, but I DO believe it is necessary to celebrate it. What a blow to find no Advent in Africa. (Okay, that was a gross overgeneralization, yes, I know. But it has such a nice ring to it.)

Suddenly, I'm enjoying the decorations the Scotts and Friesens have strung, and looking forward to singing carols with the kids and lighting an Advent wreath with the family. I even look forward to singing a carol or two with English Choir at church on Christmas. After all, Christ's coming to Earth as a child is the first half of a world-changing event, Easter being the other half. A child is born, a son is given; a light shining in the darkness; a Saviour, born to us in the city of David. This deserves some celebration, yes, a whole season of it!


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