The past week was absolutely incredible! I got to celebrate Christmas with my family and then I returned to Philadelphia to celebrate with my family here. Both were so drastically different from my traditional Christmas but were wonderful and blessed all the same.
Last Wednesday I headed back to NH with my friends that came down for a few days. After 9 hours, I pulled up to my snow-covered house (from 50 degree weather in Philly), exhausted but excited to see my family and friends! My time home was very, very busy... I got to spend time with Christen, Tara and MC as well as my mom, dad, brother and sister-in-law. We celebrated our family Christmas Saturday evening with a delicious dinner and we opened presents and watched Christmas movies (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, a family favorite). It was quiet and relaxing. Sunday was quite the opposite, celebrating Christmas with my dad's side of the family. With about 35 people there, 12 of which were children, it was hectic! We had a lot of fun but I was certainly exhausted by the time we got home.
Although I was sad to leave my parents for the actual Christmas day, because we celebrated it earlier, it felt like Christmas had already passed when it was time to return to Philly. But boy was I surprised when I came back to ChristmasWorld once again! Emily's family came down from Watertown, NY to celebrate Christmas here with us. We went to mass at the chapel at the Inn and then myself, Jamie, Michael, Karen and Mike (New Zealanders), Karen, Barbara and John all went to midnight mass at Saint Vincent de Paul, a beautiful church about 5 miles away. It was such a beautiful mass! The music was absolutely beautiful (I LOVE Christmas music!)!!! We didn't end up getting home until about 1:45am and I woke up Tuesday morning with a big smile on my face, despite my exhaustion!
I usually consume mass quantities of sugar on a daily basis and Christmas was no exception... but by about 10am, I had consumed more than anyone should in a day and was bouncing off the walls! I'd like to think that the Christmas spirit had something to do with it too! But I made it my personal mission to spread Christmas cheer to everyone- so I sang, I hugged, I smiled, I danced, I loved.
At 11:30 the meal started--- you would not believe how FUN it was!!!! I was maitre'd so I got to greet everyone as they came in and I got to enjoy the musicians that came to entertain the guests during the meal! It was such a beautiful day and I am so glad that I made the decision to be here for the actual day.
After the meal, Jamie and I went to the movies (a family tradition I wasn't quite ready to surrender) and then I came back and ate dinner with Emily's family! They were such a wonderful blessing and the love and comfort they shared with me almost made me feel like I was home with my own family!
So, now we're enduring the Christmas hangover. I'm still so excited about the holiday and am hoping that this continues all throughout the year! But the Team is trying to recover from the insanity of the holidays and many are taking vacations to visit their own families that they were not able to see on Christmas day.
Despite all the joy and love that I felt from my family both in NH and in Philly, I really struggled with Christmas this year. I had a hard time receiving gifts because I kept recalling all my kids back here in Philly that wouldn't have gifts to open. I never realized how much I enjoy giving meaningful gifts until this year when I wasn't able to. I felt guilty. Luckily, I was able to talk to both Emily and Joanne who helped me through, but I was very happy to come back to Philly to be among people that were experiencing similar things.
I feel like I am finally realizing what gift Christmas is, in spite of all the gifts and hoopla. I am beginning to understand the true meaning of Christmas apart from all the material gifts and the decorations and the hype. It is about love. It is about God becoming flesh and living among us. I can't grasp the incredible love of God, but I am catching glimpses all over the place, no matter where I am!
This year was the first time my family didn't spend Christmas together and I have a feeling that last year was the last Christmas as the Bagtaz family knows it. This year was a catalyst for change and that's also a little scary. But Christmas isn't about one day, it is about when everyone can gather and I think my family did a pretty good job of really sanctifying our own celebration.
I pray that all your Christmases were filled with blessings and that the love and joy of this season continues to permeate your lives all year long.