“This is the message of Christmas: We are never alone.”

Today is lovely. The air is still, the sky a light blue and the sun winter bright. It is in the 40’s, colder than yesterday but warmer than last night. It hasn’t yet been winter cold, the sort which takes your breath away. I’m glad for the reprieve.

When I watch TV programs supposedly taking place in winter, I always look for breath. In the one from the other night, a Hallmark Christmas movie, snow was in piles on the ground and the characters were bundled as if for an Arctic expedition but there was no breath. It was a fake, a movie winter, but I wasn’t taken in by the trappings of a Hollywood winter. I know cold.

I remember watching One Magic Christmas, a Disney movie where winter is real. Some key scenes take place at night. When the characters walk, you can hear the sound of crunching snow. Under the shine of the streetlights, you can see their breaths. Everywhere is snow: on the ground, piled on the sides of the road and in front of houses. It is really winter. I appreciated that.

In Bolgatanga, in Ghana, Christmas takes place during the harmattan when winds blow sand from the Sahara, the days are brutally hot and the nights cold. The first year there I was twenty-two and had never been away from home at Christmas. I tried not to think about it. My mother, however, saved the day. She sent me a package by air to guarantee a delivery before Christmas. The postage was a small fortune. My aunt helped fill the package and was nice enough to pay half of the postage. When I opened the box, it was filled with Christmas. I’ll never forget that box. It had a small artificial tree, some new ornaments and some from the family tree, cookie cutters, some sprinkles for the sugar cookies, small  stockings to hang from the fireplace paper also in the package and a few small wrapped presents to put under the tree.

I learned how to make sugar cookies that year. I spent Christmas Eve with friends at my house where we had a small party. We sang Christmas carols, ate Guinea fowl, yam chips, donuts and sweet balls of coconut. The sugar cookies were the big hit. I had even decorated them. That Christmas is one of my all time favorites.

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18 Comments on ““This is the message of Christmas: We are never alone.””

  1. olof1 Says:

    Can we see the breath in The Day After Tomorrow? After all it is very cold so we should be able to do so but I can’t remember. I think it might be time to see that movie again, we’re having a storm here right now but it has calmed down considerable even if it still blows hard. Don’t notice much here in my cottage though.

    No snow or sand is falling here but we’ll get lots of rain these coming days, can’t say I have any christmas feeling right now but still, I don’t like snow so I guess I shouldn’t complain 🙂 Not even the cats wants to go outside in this weather 🙂

    Have a great day!

    Christer.

    • katry Says:

      Christer,
      I don’t remember if we can. I think I remember the wolves on the ship snorting but I’m not sure. I have seen it a few times, and when it’s on, I end up watching pieces of it.

      I’ll take the rain over the snow. I totally understand why dogs and cats would rather stay inside. I always feel bad when I have to make them go out.

  2. Hedley Says:

    Please ignore the date on the video, it was from last night not 2014. After the song, Miss Piggy was more than slightly disparaging.

    So having risked a life time ban from KTCC with Iggy Pop, I now ask you to enjoy the unbelievable lack of harmony from Crosby Stills and Nash as they demolish “Silent Night” in front of the President of the United States of America.

  3. Birgit Says:

    I had to laugh when I saw today’s title quote. Errands today and I was in 3 cities, all were terribly crowded and public transport is even more horrible these days than usual. I wished I were alone! I even stumbled upon a Coca Cola Christmas fair. I didn’t know that we have it here and to be honest I’ve never missed it. Just bad loud music and many drunken bored people there. I’m glad to be home again.

    • katry Says:

      Birgit,
      I hardly shop at malls but prefer small stores in the different towns and villages. I also shop on-line. I never encounter crowds.

      The cape has a single bus line that goes from Hyannis to P-Town. It even has racks for bikes. Other than that, you need a car. The only time the towns are crowded is during the Christmas strolls. The restaurants give a free taste of food and all of the stores have food as well. A horse and wagon rides the rout of my village while a small bus rides the other. I make it a good part of the way and find the wagon or bus a salvation.

  4. Caryn Says:

    Hi Kat,
    Your mother was an incredibly thoughtful and wise person who knew exactly what her daughter would need to have a first Christmas away from home feel almost like Christmas at home.

    I don’t watch a lot of movies but I can tell when they have filmed in the early morning because I can see the actors breath very faintly.

    It’s very odd weather for December. Today I went down to the back swamp to take some photos. The skunk cabbage is growing. Two months early. Even the flower hoods are up above ground. Weird.

    Enjoy the day.

    • katry Says:

      Hi Caryn,
      No question about it-my mother, the lover of Christmas, knew what I needed to get through being so far away during our favorite holiday.

      My second year was so much easier. My friends and I spent the holiday together, and it was a family Christmas.

  5. Richard Says:

    Today was a drivin’ kinda day. Blue cloudless sky, temp in the low 50s, shorts and T bein’ the ‘de rigeur’ clothing of the day.

    I drove to Penzeys Spices and bought some of their wonderful food picker-uppers. They make it difficult (intentionally) to get out of the store without buying at least one item – and I bought three. They have so many variations on themes that y’ practically have to buy each over time to see which one you really like best. Today I got their High-Fat Chocolate Powder and some other favorites … now to wait for a really cold night. If you’ve never been to Penzeys, check ’em out online at http://www.penzeys.com … and yeah, you can order online, too …

    You’re right about checkin’ for breath in the ‘winter’ movies. Same for watching the snowflakes – Ivory soap flakes fall quite differently from real snow.

    Never heard of ‘One Magic Christmas’ … or a ‘harmattan.’

    Usually when I watch WWII movies, I make a habit of checking the vehicles and markings for accuracy. One of the best movies for accuracy was ‘Kelly’s Heros’ … the shoulder patches for US troops were correct, as were sidearms, web gear, and vehicles. The same extended to the Germans … the most amazing piece of equipment was an actual WWII PzKpfw (Panzerkampfwagen) VI, the ‘Tiger’ … not the more refined ‘King Tiger’ designed by Ferdinand Porsche, but the huge slab-sided beast with 4″ thick frontal armor and an 88mm main gun. It even had the correct battle tracks in place and was marked with an ‘s’ in a lozenge to indicate ‘Schwer’ … amazing. Their historical research department was quite thorough.

    Your Christmas in Ghana sounds like it was quite a special occasion, and that’s great. Nice that you were able to have a bit of ‘home’ with you there.

    Sugar cookies … never learnt to make ’em, never ate ’em after the first one. The yam chips sound like something I need to research and make. So far I haven’t tasted Guinea fowl, and I doubt there are any places locally that could be considered purveyors for it.

    There is, however, a VietNamese grocery in a rather seedy area of Mid-Town near The MedPlex that sells Peking duck … I was surprised the first time I visited there to see them hanging from strings like ornaments in the ‘kitchen’ area … there must have been at least eighteen of ’em for sale that day, but I didn’t get one. I’ll need to remedy that later this year or early next.

    • katry Says:

      Richard,
      It was in the mid-40’s today but still just sweatshirt weather. I think tonight is again much colder, but tomorrow is supposed to be warmer.

      I have so many Penzey’s spices in my cabinet. Many are so off-beat I couldn’t find them anywhere else including lots of strange powdered chilies as the Cape doesn’t have a long history of hot foods.

      You’d need to be near the Sahara for the Harmattan to affect you. I had never heard of it until I was smack dab in the middle of it.

      I was so glad for that package from my mother. My small tree was decorated with ornaments I remember being on our home tree. It was a piece of home.

      Guinea fowl is delicious. The yams are the white tuber, not the orange potato. Their skin looks like tree bark. At night I would go into town for a treat. Along the main street you could see fires lit under large enamel pots. In those pots was usually peanut oil at a high enough temperature to make crispy chips. Kabobs were spread across the fire. Kelewele, a plantain dish, is my favorite of all the foods available except maybe those Ghanaian donuts which resembles holes more than a donut.

      It isn’t Christmas for us without sugar cookies.

      Boston’s Chinatown always has ducks hanging in the windows.

  6. Jay Bird Says:

    My younger daughter Ann (killed in a traffic accident seven years ago) celebrated Christmas 2005 as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kuhlna, Bangladesh. Some PCV’s and local friends on a rooftop with a badly-tuned guitar, singing Christmas carols. Despite missing an American Christmas away from home, she said it was a great party. I sent her a Columbia fleece vest, which she said was a charm, even in the tropics!

    She never had a second Christmas in Bangladesh, since they evacuated all the PCV’s and closed the office in country, in light of verified threats from the local mujahedeen. Peace Corps doesn’t run scared, so you know the threats were for real.

    God bless all PCV’s for giving up the Christmas comforts of home to make the world a better place.

    • katry Says:

      Jay,
      I know words are small comfort at the loss of your daughter so I’m glad you have such wonderful memories to hold close.

      I know how she must have felt being evacuated from Bangladesh. Where you are posted becomes home and it is never easy to leave. I cried most of the way to Accra.

      At that party we went out and sat at the back of my house to see the stars. In Ghana the whole sky was flooded with light and every night I’d see a falling star. As we were sitting there someone remarked that this was exactly the kind of night it was at that first Christmas. We all sat quietly for a bit. We all realized how true that was and how wonderfully lucky we were to be in Ghana at Christmas.

  7. rk2000 Says:

    so true.


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