A Reflection on the Holidays away from Home

Christmas is really different here in Ecuador.

There just isn’t the same hype and celebration that’s present back home in
the United States. Businesses are actually open on Christmas here, whereas
Waffle House is pretty much the only place you can find food out of the
house on Christmas in Atlanta. Most families don’t have Christmas trees.
This was the first Christmas where I haven’t run downstairs in the morning
to the sight of my family spoiling me with gifts.

It might not sound like my greatest Christmas ever, but in retrospect it
kind of was. My host family gave me a cool Ecuador shirt, and we had a big
lunch with our extended family who live next door. I made my favorite
dessert, banana pudding, for everyone to enjoy. It made me realize that, in
the US, I don’t look forward to Christmas for the right reasons.

Back home, I tend to look forward to Christmas because I get a bunch of
gifts and don’t really have to do anything for the day. I don’t look
forward to it for religious reasons, because I’m not religious, and I don’t
even really get excited to spend quality time with family. It’s made me
truly realize how America has twisted the holiday into a nationwide
spending spree. Most people already know that, but it’s a little hard to
truly grasp without experiencing a different kind of Christmas.

Why do we celebrate Christmas? Most of the people that do are casual
Christians at best. Why do we celebrate a holiday that was originally
invented as part of the Church’s effort to destroy Paganism if, for most of
us, it’s one of the three times per year that we go to church, if we even
go at all? Do we celebrate it for familial purposes? Or do we just
celebrate it because we’re supposed to, and the prospect of excessive gifts
entices us?

Maybe, next Christmas, we’ll really think about why we celebrate this
arbitrary date instead of just going along with the traditions created by