Growing up, my large family Christmases were bursting at the seams with people, food, noise and fun. I don’t feel like I’m celebrating without at least twenty people simultaneously playing games while toddlers wander from relative to relative and newborn babies are passed around. I love my childhood memory of the tree at my grandparents’ house because presents spilled out from under the tree and stretched across an entire side of the living room. When we started unwrapping, one of the small children could easily go missing under the sea of discarded holiday paper!
Duplication of my ideal Christmas while living away from family is impossible. However, I’ve learned over the years we spent in China that holidays can still be very memorable and tons of fun, but it takes a bit of effort and a lot of willingness to let it be different than what I deem customary.
The best thing a team can do before a holiday is to prepare well. Sit down with your people and talk about your Christmas experiences at home. What did it look like? How many people were there? What did it smell like? What did you eat? What did you do throughout the day? Getting these things out there amongst the group will help teammates understand each other. One person’s definition of the perfect Christmas day may be vastly different than another’s, but we can love each other well by incorporating special “holiday requirements” into our team celebrations while creating something entirely different than any of us grew up knowing.
This is also a great discussion to have with your spouse because you might be celebrating Christmas “alone” together for the first time. Our first Christmas away from family, we ran into a kitchen fiasco because we had one tiny oven and only one big mixing bowl. I was determined to whip up sugar cookies on Christmas Eve so I could eat them Christmas morning, but my husband had filled the bowl with dough for kolaches and sticky buns. While I freaked out about my cookies not getting mixed and him hogging the oven, we realized that we never knew each other’s personal Christmas morning food requirements. Those foods had always just magically appeared because mom or an aunt made them, and we never had to worry about it!
Like food, gifts are up there on the list of important things at Christmas. If your team is comprised of families and singles, make sure to discuss gifts. Drawing names can be a great way to insure no one is left without something to unwrap on Christmas! Perhaps you could care less about gifts, but your teammate is heartbroken because her mom always gets her a new pair of socks on Christmas Eve and this year, she’s getting nothing. Pay attention and see how you can serve your teammates by filling those gaps! Also, if you’re a family, consider inviting your teammates who don’t have kids over to participate in your kids’ Christmas morning. We enjoyed having our teammates who were missing their grandchildren or nieces and nephews sitting on our couch while our kids dug into their gifts and stockings.
Another great thing to do with your team is to have at least one meal together on Christmas. Grandma isn’t here, so don’t forget to discuss who will cook the main course and what dish each teammate can bring. This doesn’t have to be overly complicated but planning ahead will pay off so the day doesn’t sneak up on you. One of our favorite Christmas team traditions was brunch which can be much easier than finding a turkey!
Since my family usually played games when we were together, I made sure to plan a time to play our team’s favorite game of the decade, Settlers of Catan, as many times as possible during the Christmas holiday. I miss those game nights with teammates! It’s funny to me that now my holiday traditions are changing again, and I find myself missing not only the Christmases of my childhood but those of my time in China as well. It’s tempting to wish everything was exactly like it used to be, but then I’d be missing out on the new traditions that can form here and now with the people God has placed in our lives.
Whether it’s your first or fifteenth Christmas overseas, I know it’s hard to embrace something different when you’re longing for things to be just like mama did it, but I challenge you to embrace this season and enjoy each moment. God has prepared something special for you and your teammates to embrace together, so please don’t miss it!
What stirred in your mind as you read this post? Is there something you’d like to do with your team that you need to plan? What do you need from the people around you? How can you serve your teammates this Christmas?
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