No stocking. No tree with tinsel. No roast dinner. Is this really Christmas?

Not as I knew it, perhaps.

Christmas was beautiful in Tomsk. Ice-skating on a lake at night, Christmas trees on every square (or rather, New Year’s trees – a relic of Soviet times when religion was forbidden), hoards of ice sculptures. Walking at night through the wintry city, lights dancing on the snow, was like walking through another world: this was true winter, a real winter wonderland. Nor was the beauty limited to the streets of the city: Iona and I were invited to spend the evening of 1st December with a family from church, and together we decorated a tiny tree in their two-room flat to mark the beginning of advent. For me, it was immeasurably valuable to be allowed to share their small family celebration, especially as I would be missing mine.

And then, before the day itself, I moved on…

Christmas was beautiful in Moscow. Everything was on a bigger scale: vast ice-rinks, enormous Christmas trees, bright colours and lights and decorations everywhere. A glittering city dressed to impress. If you’ve ever been to Moscow, you’ve surely visited Red Square – and even if you haven’t, you have likely heard of it, seen pictures of it. It is iconic. Thus, walking into the heart of Moscow on my first morning there with Saul, snow gently falling, and seeing St Basil’s Cathedral at the far end of the Square, it felt as if I was walking into a fairy-tale painting. Beside Red Square sparkled the state department store, revealing a wealth of treasures inside and capitalism at its most magnificent. We went to Christmas markets and toyshops, the conservatoire and the Bolshoi Theatre.

And then, with only a week to go, I moved on…

Christmas was beautiful here in Austria, too, of course. Midnight Mass, in a full and exquisitely decorated little church, rendered a certain amount of familiarity to the occasion, and the message was as wonderful as it always is: Christ is born! The following morning, however, I had to remind myself that it was Christmas Day. No stocking, no tree with tinsel, no roast dinner… Instead, I overslept and rushed to work, where I did my best to teach a five-year-old and two adults how to stay upright on skis. My afternoon off I spent skiing, and in the evening I went out for a meal with the family and friends of my Dutch colleague Liante. We laughed a lot and ate extremely well – yet it still didn’t feel like Christmas, because it wasn’t my family.

And then it was over.

Was it really Christmas? The answer: yes! Unfamiliar, but blessed. I hope you, too, are enjoying a blessed Christmas season.




8 thoughts on “Christmas!

  1. What beautiful descriptions Rebecca. It may not have been Christmas as you know it but it will be a Christmas you will never forget!
    Happy New Year and we look forward to reading more posts. Xxx


  2. I am so enjoying your posts and the insight to your amazing experiences is fabulous.
    Clearly Christmas, but not as you know it! Unforgettable.
    Thank you and Happy New Year.
    Uncle Andrew x


  3. Hi Bex! Another beautiful reflection and storey telling.
    I wish you a happy 2017 and look forwards to your next storey! Enjoy your family get to get her this month xx


  4. Hi Bex! Another beautiful written reflection of your experiences..I look forwards to the next one! Have a great time with your family this month and the best wishes for 2017! Xxx


  5. Another wonderful blog,thank you so much. May you have a blessed, peaceful, healthy and happy New Year darling Rebecca. Mummy gave me a framed photo of you in your new coat in the sparling forest in Tonsk which is on the hall table, I love it. My love Dede


  6. Happy New Year! A wonderful experience to be recalled, no doubt. Good luck in Austria and enjoy having the family over at the end of the month. You’ve had an exciting time and I’m sure the memories will linger. I am sad today as Lizzie and Will have just left to return to Princeton.


  7. Sounds like another wonderful experience. Although you were away from your family and I know your Mum missed you, Jesus is the reason for the season and wherever we are or where we travel to God is always with us. Enjoy Austria.


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