In Special Feature

By Christine Harrison

With the cranberries and popcorn tucked safely in my shopping cart, Tom and I headed to the checkout line ready to make our first Christmas purchases as a married couple. Still figuring out how to live as self-supported YWAM missionaries, we had a tight budget for the holiday and I was excited for the simple, handmade decorations I’d planned to adorn our tree. We had already decided my Italian Grandfather’s tradition of having lasagna for Christmas dinner wasn’t something we would be able to do this year, so I was glad that our home would at least look like memories I have from childhood. We made our way home to what I expected to be a cozy night stringing popcorn and cranberry garland while watching “It’s A Wonderful Life”.

On the way home, Tom asked about the decoration plan for the second time that day. He’s from England, you see, and had never heard of the traditional American custom of cranberries and popcorn I was used to seeing. I could hear the doubt in his voice and started to lose confidence in my plan. Was I being pushy? Would our first Christmas together away from our families be too full of North American traditions and make my husband feel like a stranger? What we needed was a coming together of each of our traditions and a focus on figuring out what Christmas would look like for us as a cross cultural couple, one of many in this organization. 

We’ve had many conversations in the past year and a half about how to understand each other’s cultural quirks. It’s fun to be brought in on new things and even learn the history of why we do what we do in specific countries and cultures. Not realizing how strange popcorn and cranberries as decoration would be to someone outside of the United States, I decided to research it a bit.  Where did this creative decoration originate?

A long time ago in Germany people would decorate trees with fruit in reference to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The tradition emigrated from Europe to America and shifted to what was available there.  Popcorn and cranberries, more accessible in winter, were used in place of apples and oranges.  

Tom and I arrived at home and got started on our garland. In the end, Tom loved the look of our tree and added paper chains around the room, one of his own family traditions. Our little home turned into the cozy space I had hoped for, and our first Christmas together represented both of us and was full of rest and celebration.

Christmas is coming again, and as we plan to travel to England this year, I have been excited to see what Tom’s family traditions are and learn about what celebration looks like there. I was happily surprised when he asked me a few days ago if I would like to make lasagna! Even in England he wants to make sure I’m represented and my family isn’t forgotten. Traditions look different for each of us and I love how marriage creates the opportunity to not only share those traditions, but to create new ones as well.

We’re all scattered around the world this December, but the YWAM Turner Valley staff wish you a very Merry Christmas! We pray your holiday is filled with rest, fun, and celebration as we take time with family honoring the Birth of our Saviour.

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