Christalynn Hamer, TESS 130

Two large windows give way to clouds and sunshine. Good morning Watchonlathi. Sun-rich red and bottlecap blue knit stockings hang from the slated windows retelling the festivities of this month. Avant-garde Christmas trees peek from their lips singing an ode to the December tree mounted on the middle of our classroom wall. Anita Baker’s special rendition of “My Favorite Things” is triggered in my mind by the DIY Christmas my students have created and I can’t help but smile. This will be one of my favorite things when I return home.

I often think about what will come home with me after my 27 months; Trinkets and the smoked cheese and seaweed Lays for sure, a wealth of perspective, memorable recipes, a strength I’ve always prayed for, gratitude for materials and people I  never knew I took for granted, and without question- traditions. What does that even mean as a single 24-year-old woman who thought she tasted a healthy portion of independence in college? After all, traditions begin with you. Well, Thailand has kindly clarified the distinct difference between being independent-minded and being independent, especially now riding the cusp of Christmas Day.

For the past few weeks, I thought I have been “Christmasing”, and in many ways I have. Nothing says season’s greetings like cookie decorating, Polar Express, Christmas card fun, and belly laughing with your students and pretty fly counterpart (shout out to Kru May). As gushy as it may sound, (most days) they are the embodiment of joy, thus the spirit of Christmas often pays me a visit in one class or another. But I recognize there is an undeniable difference between Christmas then and now, that’s not to be mourned just acknowledged.

In all transparency, I think I’ve been waiting, waiting for the green light from my folks, to buy the tree, cook the casserole, string the lights, play phone tag with the relatives, cue the Christmas music, and ta-da, Christmas! It all seems so easy. So simple. All I had to do was follow their lead, join in, and I was caught up in the annual angst and bliss of who was cooking the macaroni, groans about bouncing from house to house to keep from passively arguing for the next 3 days, and threats of not putting up Christmas decorations two weeks before Christmas because what’s the point. That’s one of the beautiful things about Peace Corps; it prompts you to take the reins and fly; pioneer the practices and norms that reflect your identity, desires, and beliefs. I believe in community and gathering with friends, loved ones, and family–all the merrymaking–, but there’s a season for everything including finding practices of commemoration so I never forget to be grateful for where I am, how far I’ve come, what brought me joy during that time, and what I hope to share with loved ones years from now.

So here we go! It’s a bit premature to know if they’ll stick, but here’s an attempt at a guide to “tradition-making” by yours truly:

Take note of the things that bring you joy. If they can be replicated, they just might be a keeper.

Find your triggers. Find the songs, books, colors, decorations, candles that instantly transport you to a space of gratitude, nostalgia, peace, holiday spirit, etc. and incorporate them into the holiday/festivities.

Express yourself with the ones you love, value, and respect. If this period of time is significant to you, you may want to share portions of it with others so they too can celebrate and get to know you in different ways. Depending on the circumstances, it may take some vulnerability and effort and just remember 20 seconds of courage. That’s all you need.

Sensations set the tone for celebration. Sight. Smell. Taste. Touch. Sound. Food gives you access to all. And in my experience, I associate many of my memories with a specific dish. Identify the food that symbolizes your celebration and dig in!

Senior (This might just pertain to me …)
Yes, you are a grown up. Welcome to adulthood! What a frighteningly beautiful thing it is to christen this time with traditions that represent all of who you are. Don’t let that big word scare you. Take Rudolph by the antlers and go, go, go!

More like don’t forget! Remember these special customs you’ve created and build. The key to commemoration is honor, zeal, and practice. Your first attempt at traditions might take a tweak or two, but in all your trying you’ll find some that stick and then you’ll grow them and perhaps share. Happy holidays!

Read Christalynn’s other articles and contributions.

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