Moving to the other side of the world necessitates choices. What to take, what to leave behind? There was no shortage of advice from people on both sides of the world about what they found invaluable or what they realized they could do without. But at the end of the day we had to decide for ourselves. Gena decided she wanted to take one piece of our Christmas tradition.
As a pastor’s family Christmas is always a busy day. Our tradition became as a family to wake up early, and gather with mugs of tea or hot cocoa and our traditional Christmas pastry, home-made bear claws. We would then open whatever was in our Christmas stockings and enjoy our drinks and treats. Then I’d be off to get ready for worship with the family to follow. Presents and other parts of our celebration would wait until church was done. This was a pattern we maintained pretty much for as long as the kids have been alive, and Gena wanted to take our Christmas stockings to Indonesia.
Unfortunately, we realized I had packed all of our Christmas items in the back corner of our storage unit. On the bottom. While we could have unpacked the entire unit to get to them we decided not to. After all, we’re starting a new life in a new part of the world. Christmas traditions will be new and different as well and we’ll be OK with that.
And we would be. But as Christmas got closer, Gena started thinking – there are at least half-a-dozen tailor shops in the market we walk through every day on the way to and from language school. And in fact, Alec had already made acquaintances with the family who owns one of them. Maybe they would be able to make us Christmas stockings? And maybe we could use native fabric and prints for them? It would be a beautiful memory of our time here that the kids could take with them as they move on in life to start their own families.
We decided to try.
We quickly learned a few things. Firstly, Christmas is not a major holiday in Indonesia. Aside from a few scattered decorations and a small quantity of Christmas-related items for purchase, it passes without much fanfare. Even Christians here don’t make an overly big deal out of it. Part of this is related to some of the churches planted by Korean charismatic evangelists over the years. They don’t celebrate Christmas as any more special a day than any other, a tradition likely traced back to John Calvin.
Secondly, Christmas stockings are an unfamiliar thing here. The tailor shop was very gracious but definitely perplexed when Gena and Alec tried to describe what we wanted. Fortunately they were able to borrow a sample stocking from another ex-pat family. Upon examination the tailors (a Muslim family) indicated they could indeed make such items. Now we had to find the fabric for them.
A family trip to a local fabric store provided us with dozens of different patterns to choose from. The manager was a talkative man (in English) originally working in Jakarta, of Indian descent. As we described what we wanted he was perplexed why we were looking at Batik prints. Don’t you need stretchy fabric? he asked, and we were confused until we realized he thought we wore these stockings. We explained they were decorative, not clothing to be worn, and found prints that suited us. Alec and Gena returned to the tailors with the fabric and agreed the tailors would make one stocking and they could come back the following day to see if it was what we had in mind.
It was, and we were promised the stockings would be ready by Christmas Eve.
They were actually ready a day early and exceeded all our expectations! We could have an old tradition in new clothing (hmmm…seems like somebody used that analogy already).
We’re thankful for this small blessing and small comfort in the midst of so many changes!