My first Christmas away from home was in the city of Ferrara, home of the bicycles. Let me just tell you that at first I was not excited to be there. I was transferred from my first city about 2 weeks before Christmas, and I was a little bitter. Plus, it was a relatively smaller town and I wanted to go to the big city...but don't worry, the Christmas spirit cheered me up, and the ward gave us an amazing Christmas present - let's just say I didn't have to buy food for a long, long time. :)
Anyways, Ferrara turned out to be quite the cool little town. It had a castle right in the middle of the square, with a moat, and a drawbridge. Pretty much awesome. Then there was this huge Cathedral that did a full nativity play right in front. It was awesome!
The pictures don't give it justice. Everything was in lights and everything just spelled Christmas!!! I loved it! Well, we were invited to go spend Christmas with one of our investigators, and that was awesome with a LOT of great food! But, my favorite part about this Christmas was that my companion and I were able to spend Christmas Eve and the latter part of Christmas day with Johnny (real name-Ionut - pronounced EE-oh-noo-tz). Long story with Johnny, but he was having a hard time. He's Romanian waiting to be able to return to his country, meanwhile in his apartment the heat was turned off, his aunt just left him there by himself (he's 19 at the time) and it just was a terrible situation. So, my companion and I went over there, made some food, and just talked about everything with him. We were the only people to come visit him. There was no exchange of presents, just good company. Me, Tolman, and Johnny.
Since the mission, those of us who taught Johnny have kind of lost track of him, but we're trying and let me tell you, we all miss this kid!
The rest of Christmas I watched my companion open his presents (mine were sent later), we did a little bit of contacting, and read the Christmas story and reflected on Christ most of the day. This is when I felt like I truly had a Christmas. That's one of the reasons I miss Christmas in Italy. First of all, I didn't want presents. I almost don't want presents now still. It's nice to get stuff, but in the end, that's mostly what you get: stuff. That Christmas I strengthened my relationship with Christ, and that is sticking with me. Not the random board game, or the pair of jeans. Second, when you are on a mission, everything is about everyone else. You forget about yourself (well, if you are doing it right). It's a wonderful feeling not to be worrying about yourself all day long and to just help others. Once you are back you have a lot to worry about: school, work, girls, etc. On the mission, its: how can I help these people? and that question can usually be answered by simple steps.
So, when I come home, I get to see my family, and you get the Christmas songs, and the food, and all that jazz, but it is really easy to lose everything else. This year, finals was a week before Christmas, so that kind of sucked the fun out of it. I got home Friday night and it seemed I was at the store for about 2 hours every day with my mom getting presents. I HATE SHOPPING now. By golly, I can't stand stores. Then it seemed with all the stress that everyone was on edge. So, that wasn't fun.
In the end, it worked out. Christmas Eve was my favorite part of Christmas as always. My brother and sister-in-law, sister and brother-in-law, parents, and my little bro had a MARVELOUS mexican dinner with my favorite Christmas desserts, and then we hopped in the car and drove around singing songs while looking at lights. Once we come home, we have a little German Christmas tradition and then we open 1-2 presents.
After that, me and some friends went to midnight mass at a local catholic church. I usually find them interesting and spiritual, but this one was kind of weird. Instead of the traditional mass, they put it to rock music, and I just felt awkward. But the message was good, so it all worked out.
This morning we opened presents, played games, ate food, opened more presents, ate food, played games, opened more presents, played games and ate more food, and now I'm about to go play games...
So, that's my little tidbit on Christmas...I might include some more...but that will be for later.