We can hardly believe that the end of 2007 is upon us! I really need to think about posting more than twice a month because we take too many pictures and see too many things to write about in between. We hope everyone enjoyed their Christmas festivities and we're happy to post some pics of our celebrations online for you. We were actually pleasantly surprised with John on Christmas day... being not quite 2 years old we assumed there would be some screaming and end-of-the-world tantrum throwing. But John really enjoyed opening all his gifts and playing with each thing (even the toothbrush) so it was a tear-free morning. Actually, our whole week was quite relaxing and lazy.
We spent Christmas Eve at a friend's house (Mark & Tracy Friend) helping make an amazing seafood dinner with three kinds of shrimp, hush puppies, flounder, sushi, pasta with red or fresh mushroom sauces... more food than I can even remember. We all agreed the best part was helping to prepare everything (and of course the eating, that goes without saying) and thankfully they have kids who could entertain John while we busied ourselves in the kitchen. There are plenty of pics in the web album of the festivities.
Christmas day we enjoyed a visit with Michael's family on the web-cam and lots of lazing about doing nothing in the morning. After John got up from his nap we headed over to another friend's house, Anne & Tiny (he's our branch pres.) for yet another feast! Unfortunately I was neglectful in my picture-taking duties on that day, so we don't have any from their home! But I will get Anne to email me a few and I'll post them as soon as I can get them. This was an awesome traditional feast with ham, turkey, mashed potatoes, rolls, veggies, sweet potatoes... all the comforts of home. Anne is from the Philippines but her husband is American so she is used to cooking traditional American fare, especially on the holidays, for her husband. They had invited quite a few people from the branch and we realized that between the 10 or so people attending there were 6 nationalities represented: American, Philippino, Malaysian, Chinese, Nigerian, and Egyptian. Quite a diverse group! We had a lot of fun just relaxing and talking, and ended the evening (perfectly, in Michael's opinion) watching "Napoleon Dynamite" and grazing on the table full of desserts.
OK, OK, so aside from the obvious gluttony of our celebrations (we all ate WAY too much food) our Christmas was really perfect. We weren't overly-bombarded with commercialism that began right after Halloween, we didn't have a lot of pressure to share gifts with every neighbor in our apartment building, we don't even have a lot of seasonal decorations that need attending to... there was simple gift-giving among a few people, there was time spent with friends, there were quiet moments of contemplation to remember the birth of the Savior and read scriptures of the prophecies announcing his coming to the world. Now, I am a sucker for traditions... I love playing in the snow and drinking hot chocolate, I love caroling, leaving cookies on people's doorstep, wrapping presents... the whole ball of wax. But the most palpable thing missing from this year's Christmas was literally the spirit of the season. I've commented about this before, but because this is a Muslim country there is simply a different feeling in the air here. There is just no other way to describe it. And I have really only noticed it lately because there has been something lacking at this time of year that usually I count on as part of tradition. I think that because a vast majority of people in the US are Christian and are celebrating the Christmas season with basic religious principles in mind, it creates a truly tangible feeling that comes from the Holy Ghost. Admittedly, possibly most people include Jesus Christ in their celebrations only momentarily or even superficially, attending mass or some sort of religious ceremony and not making much more effort than that. However, regardless of the amount of time spent or the depth of it invested in spiritual matters, I still believe that most people at one point or another will have their thoughts directed to the Savior of the world at this time of year. And because of that, people truly carry the Spirit with them. On top of that, people are more prone to service than probably any other time of year, which means they are obeying gospel principles taught by Jesus Christ, regardless of whether they recognize it or not, and the Lord is bound to bless them, usually causing an increase of those good feelings, i.e. the Spirit... THAT is the true spirit of Christmas. I think that is why there are so many wonderful memories, so many songs written, such a big deal made out of this particular season, because we all love that feeling we get. Truly, Jesus Christ is
"the light [that] shineth in the darkness...the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world" (John 1:5, 10).
We really wish you all the best at the end of this year and hope that the Spirit of the Lord stays with you throughout the coming year as well. We could probably all use more of those good feelings during more months than just December.
With love from the Malaysian Weists...
erin, mike, john & baby