Back when I was a kid, we didn’t even have a Christmas tree, let alone presents. I don’t recall tree trimming, cookie baking, or gingerbread house making when I was a child. Using the resources I had, I cut out Christmas pictures that I found from old magazines and sticked them on our windows. For ‘presents’ I wrapped whatever toys I had so it looked like Christmas presents. I remember wrapping our Scrabble game box and putting it near our heater. On Christmas day I’d open them and pretend they were Christmas presents. When I was little, my little brother’s godparent’s family would invite us over for Christmas dinner. My little brother’s godfather’s father was Indonesian and their whole family would invite us over on every major holiday like Christmas, Easter, and Children’s day (they religiously celebrate Children’s day, isn’t it cute?). They treated us as if we were family by blood and gave us presents. I remember Grandma asking me, “Monica, what did Santa get you for Christmas?” and I answered, “Nothing, Grandma. We don’t have a chimney.” Everyone laughed. It’s a fond memory of Christmas that makes me smile every time it crosses my mind.
Thirteen years later, in a different continent and climate, it’s Christmas Eve, and I haven’t finished my Christmas shopping. It kinda feels weird to actually go Christmas shopping because getting Christmas presents was never a tradition in my family. But we have Christmas trees now in the house so I guess that’s good progress. My mother, strictly enforcing meritocracy, would only get us something if our grades were good. And being the practical person she is, instead of taking the time to pick out something for her children, she simply takes us out to the mall and pick our own ‘present’. I don’t think it’s even a Christmas present, it was more like an end-of-semester prize. She didn’t even wrap them! Well on a positive note, she made sure we got exactly what we wanted. But on the other hand, there was no element of surprise of unwrapping presents. So this year I decided to get something for everyone in the family. If I couldn’t experience the surprise and excitement of unwrapping presents, I might as well give that experience to the people I love most.
These past few days I’ve been getting the same question: “Monica, aren’t you gonna take a few days off? Where are you gonna spend Christmas?” This year is quite special because Christmas is on a Friday, and coincidentally Christmas Eve is on a national holiday because it’s the same day as Maulid Nabi (a Moslem holiday). So basically, taking the other 3 work days off was a favorable option. But I didn’t take that option since my family and I never go out on the holidays. While other Batak people usually return to their homelands in North Sumatera, our family usually celebrates Christmas in Jakarta because most of our family already resides here. The thought of celebrating a quiet and peaceful Christmas else where crossed my mind, but well, maybe next time.