An international Christmas story…


Last night we had our ESL Christmas party and in my class, Level 4, I decided we would discuss Christmas. Everyone rolled their eyes and said they’d done that too many times. But I told them that as a professional journalist, I was going to interview them and they were going to share with us their favorite Christmas memories. That had NOT been done in the class before! Want to know why I did that? Because *everyone* has a Christmas memory- even if you don’t celebrate it. As the students began to share, we were all very moved and some even became emotional because those memories are powerful and poignant and stand out for the best reason: LOVE. Christmas is about LOVE- the LOVE of God to send His Son, Jesus, “God with Us” and all around the world what everyone remembers about their own experiences is LOVE. I was so beautifully touched that I wanted to share with you a few bits of their stories:

1) Romania: I grew up in a communist country with very little freedom or ability to celebrate Christmas, but even so- the greatest memories are of standing in the food lines for many hours waiting for an orange and a banana. Thousands of people waited for their orange and banana for hours in the cold, but it was such a precious treat! And because I was good at karate and was a big guy, some people would even share their orange or banana with me…. We would traditionally eat fish at Christmas, but it was very hard to come by so one year, when I was 14, I went fishing in the lake. I cut through the ice and fished for hours until I caught 60 pounds of fish! Even though I was very cold and my clothes were frozen, and the fish was very heavy, I was so happy to walk the 8 miles back to my home and give it to my family!

2) Poland: We did not get many gifts for Christmas because we grew up also communist. However, one year my parents spent a great deal of money to buy me a pair of skis. They were the best gift I’d ever received. They were wooden skis and I took them out and skied all over the place! I still have those skis to this day and keep them in my home.

3) Pakistan: Our family couldn’t celebrate Christmas very much because we were often tormented by the country’s dominate religion. Even at the malls we would be mocked and spat on and called terrible names. Many Christians lived near each other for protection. One year, when I was 10 years old, my father had saved up his money and bought me a bike. I was the only kid in the whole area who had one and it was like I had gotten a new car! All the children took turns pushing me and running alongside me and watching me ride and cheering. It was one of the greatest days of my life.

4) Hungary: Our family didn’t decorate for Christmas or do anything very big, but one year my father surprised me by bringing home a huge tree. He had decorated it with real candles and I remember watching in awe as it glowed and I thought it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.

5) Serbia: We grew up as atheist and did not celebrate Christmas. However, in our small down, the woman who delivered our milk was a Christian. She would roast a pig and invite our family over and she would scatter hay all around her kitchen floor and in it she would hide walnuts and oranges and pieces of candy and we children would pretend to be chickens and we would run all around hunting for the treasures. Then, the woman would sit us down and tell us the story of Jesus and of His birth and His family and why God sent Him to earth. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized those stories were true and that the kind milk woman had planted the seeds of faith in my heart when I was a young child.

6) USA: When I was very little, my mother had just remarried and we were celebrating our first Christmas as a new family. My wish was to have some doll furniture for my little tattered doll that I loved very much. On Christmas day, the gifts that I opened were brand new doll furniture- a dresser with a little mirror, a cradle and a little desk- all handmade by my stepdad. He had worked for so long to craft them for me, his new girl. I am an old woman now and I still have those things to this day.

7) Japan: When I was young, my greatest wish was for a dog because I was an only child and often lonely, but my parents would not allow me to have one. When I was 10, on Christmas day, we traveled to the home of a friend and she brought me into a room filled with puppies and told me I could take one home as my gift. I looked at me parents and they agreed! I named my puppy Jian and he was my friend and companion for 16 years.

8) Alicia: When I was 14, my grandpa, who died earlier this year, wanted to purchase me a special ring for Christmas. I went and picked on out with my mom and waited excitedly for Christmas. On Christmas day, I opened all my gifts and finally they brought out a large box. Inside was a beautiful, emerald green, very long dress coat from London Fog. I knew it was very expensive, and I tried very hard to smile and be thankful, but my heart was broken because I had been looking forward to my new ring from my grandpa. It wasn’t until later when the gifts were done that my grandfather pulled me aside and put his arm around me and asked if I liked my new coat. I said I did- and then he asked: Did you look in the pockets? I ran to my new coat and there in the pocket was a small ring box with the beautiful ring, that I still have to this day 

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Alicia Purdy is a writer and worship leader ministering in upstate N.Y. Her passion is to support and grow the Kingdom of God through the gifts He has given her. She has been given inspiration and passion on the subject of worship and wrote "The Way of the Worshipper" to share the message God gave her. continues this vision with FREE devotions centered around the subject of worship.