Christmas in California.

This year the festive season is looking a little different in my house! We find ourselves living in Orange County in California. We wake up to sunshine most mornings and there are palm trees everywhere! The sun rises at 6.26, giving an extra three hours more daylight than where I was brought up in Scotland. So, although it is cold in the evenings, and everyone is wearing fluffy jumpers – it is much brighter than normal for me.
What other differences have I noticed round here?
Well, there is an expectation that giving to charity happens in the run up to Christmas. There are collections of toys everywhere and many shops ask for you to contribute to their charity fund as you pay at the till. There are no mince pies, no mulled wine, no Christmas cake and most people seem to be planning on cooking beef on Christmas Day. They do like their festive red-cupped pumpkin coffee though! I haven’t seen masses of Christmas cards but neighbours bake cookies to deliver to each other. There are Christmas lights everywhere, often with a red and white candy cane stripped theme. Christmas trees tend to have lots of colour and huge, shiny baubles.
Our house is fairly new and Spanish style, so my traditional British decorations look a little odd here. I’m going with the local look of having poinsettia plants at the front door.
Many churches seem to be advertising Christmas Eve afternoon services and snow events. But midnight services, children dressed up in nativity costumes and Christmas Day services don’t seem to be happening anywhere.
Does it feel like Christmas? Hmm- that’s always an odd question anyway! It doesn’t look much like the Christmas of my childhood in Scotland, and it doesn’t feel like my recent Dorset Christmasses. But my sons have arrived back from college and my daughter has broken up from school so we are all together. I’m still running round finishing off the shopping and wrapping presents when no one is looking. I’m still enjoying the cards and messages that arrive, (and dreading the ones that come in from people I wasn’t expecting and will have to quickly reply to on Facebook)! I will miss good friends and sisters who are far away and I wish my mum could be here. I’m putting on those extra few pounds, even without mince pies to indulge in!! I’m studying full-time at a Bible college so its pretty busy and we haven’t met many people here yet, but I’ve invited a few to our local lively church services with the pretty invites the church had ready.
Jesus was born in the Middle East, in a dingy stable to a poor young Jewish couple who became refugees fleeing terror.  So the first Christmas didn’t look much like this candy cane California Christmas. But then it didn’t actually look like my Dorset Dickens-style Christmas or my Scottish snowy Christmas either! So it’s not going to be a ‘traditional’ Christmas for my family and I- but we are going to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Jesus on Christmas morning and find new ways of honouring Him. I’m struggling to say, ‘happy holidays’ so I’ll finish by wishing you, a very Happy Christmas!
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  • Rachel Allcock

    Thanks Mandy! It seems fitting that our last ‘Christmas Train’ post takes us on a journey all the way to California to reflect on what a traditional Christmas really means and has meant in the past. I love the way Mandy is embracing the new traditions and ideas in her new home whilst still integrating the ones that make Christmas special for her family. She is reaching out to her neighbours even though that may feel a little out of her comfort zone!

    As we look to our Jubilee year in 2016 we are filled with excitement for what God has in store for Activate and the changes that will come, but we are filled with thankful hearts for the hard work and prayer that has established the culture and heartbeat of Activate over the last 50 years. This focus on past, present and future will feature at our weekend away. As this year draws to a close, I hope you get time to reflect on the friendships you have developed over the past year and consider how you can take these forward into 2016. Don’t forget, if you are planning to book on to Emerge 2016, early bird prices are only available until the end of December and places are filling up fast! Have a lovely Christmas and we will see you here in 2016 with our new series of posts.

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