The only certainty is change.

WHEN I WAS a little kid, I remember tip-toeing to my stocking to see if Santa had visited yet. It was after midnight. Where was my stuff? I’d go back to bed, toss for half an hour (I was way too excited to sleep) and check again. Still nothing. Then I’d finally fall asleep until the morning and the stocking would be full. What I don’t remember is when I realized or understood that my parents were Santa. I think I always just sort of knew. Even when I wrote him that letter, listing everything that I wanted. It never really mattered though. Free stuff was free stuff.

I used to spend Christmas with my cousins, running around the house, playing with our new toys, and eating lots of food. Filipinos always have lots of food. And they’re always pushing it on you to eat. “Eat, eat!” they would say. I still have memories of hearing the mahjong tiles being pushed around the adult’s table, mixing them up for a new game. If I remember right, I even went to midnight mass once. I fell asleep.

Tropical Christmas gifts

As I grew up, I saw my cousins less and less. My older brothers started getting married and having kids. Distance and in-laws became a factor. It was getting harder and harder to arrange Christmas dinner. One year we celebrated it on the 18th.

Other than the one I missed in 1995 when I went and lived in Mexico for six months, I didn’t miss another family Christmas until 2007 when I left Vancouver. That year it was spent on a private beach in Vietnam, where we wrapped up gifts in palm and banana leaves and decorated them with shells we found on the beach.

The next two were spent in Melbourne. For anyone who hasn’t spent Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere, let me assure you what you probably already suspect: it just ain’t right. Hearing “Let It Snow” and seeing Santa’s castle in a mall when you know outside the mercury is hitting 37 degrees Celsius, just ain’t right. Daylight until 9:30 PM on Christmas Eve, say it with me, just ain’t right.

Snowman in Nelson

This year I’m back in BC, but in a place — Nelson — where I’m sure to have a white Christmas. Now that seems right. It will be another year away from my family, but not from family. On Christmas Eve, I’ll have a traditional dinner with one of my best friend’s family. On the 25th, my new group of friends will get together for an “orphans” Christmas.

The holidays for me have never been about religion, and while I used to enjoy getting and giving gifts, I’d rather everyone just spent their money on more worthwhile things instead of buying stuff for people who already have everything they need.

Taking Christmas as a touchstone in life, looking back it’s interesting to see how much changes over the years. How much growth we’ve gone through, either as a result of “positive” or “negative” events (maybe both). It’s a good reminder of the constant flow of life and that no matter how much we think we know what we’ll be doing or where we’ll be next Christmas, we just can’t know. There is only one type of present I’m interested in this year.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone! Much love.

COMMUNITY CONNECTION

How have you changed from Christmas to Christmas? Share in the comments below!

The best-ofs have begun. Check out Nick Rowland’s wrap-up Bared Breasts, Chatroulette, and Avocado on Your Face: Best of Life 2010.