Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmases Past

Photos: Christmas tree in Starobelsk; with Jason in the heart of Istanbul, Christmas 2009; in the Luxor desert, New Year's Eve, 2010. 

In the desert outside of Luxor, Egypt, January 1, 2010.

Last year at this time, in Ukraine, I bought a few holiday trinkets at the Bookstore in downtown Starobelsk and a few ornaments at the Bazaar and decorated my room at Natalia’s on Kyrova, as I had done the year before when I lived with Luba on Panfelova. 

I had to work at getting the Christmas spirit, because nothing really happens there until after December 25;  the orthodox Christmas is celebrated on January 7, but it is not such a huge holiday as it is here.  

I walked around town looking for signs of the season.  I took photos of a little decorated tree in front of the Children’s House of Culture on one of my walks through the University to the center of town. We spent English Club meetings talking about the meaning of Christmas and made trinkets for a  tree made out of branches I had collected on my walks.  I watched workmen put up the large tree in front of the main Cultural Center, awhich took weeks of labor, nd went with my friend Nicolai on a cold winter’s night at the end of December to watch the lighting of the giant tree and to join happy people dancing around it.   The global village alight.

In 2009 I celebrated Christmas in Istanbul with PCV friends Jud and Jason.   I remember walking in Sultanabat, around the Blue Mosque and St. Sophia’s, in the heart of the old city, marveling at the dazzling blue and white lights and the ancient and present beauty.  Breathtaking.  The whole city sparkled, and best of all, we got to stroll along the colorful main street  to the very Church where Pope John 23 preached.  It was a holy night in Istanbul.


Last year, I was in Egypt with Jud, Cairo then onto Luxor by train. One of the most memorable trips I've ever taken.  In Cairo we stayed at a hostel, Egyptian Nights, right across from the Egyptian museum, where a few weeks later protests erupted and tanks filled the street.  We spent New Year's eve in the moonscape desert outside of Luxor, savoring the stunning night sky, a fantastic traditional meal, and good cheer with people from around the world.   

Of course there were lots of  Christmases here in the States, with kids in Toledo, with my parents in Rochester, with friends in Washington  and in balmy Florida, where houses and boats are lavishly decorated,. 

Now, here in Sylvania, a whole new set of traditions is growing out of the fertile soil of old traditions.

The memories evolve like a string of lights around all the places I have been.

They float over Christmases past and present. 

They decorate trees, windows, and wreaths.  The lights of memory, stretching on forever, expanding the tapestry of Christmases past into the now and the unknown future.  

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night! 
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