Sunday, January 3, 2010

Christmas Spirit

N & A's great grandmother sent us a Christmas package, which arrived a little after you'd expect. Yesterday we cracked it open, to be apprised with a note asking us to open the presents one at a time each day until we were all done. It was full of individually wrapped little gifts for everyone. This was my first gift.

It is the holy family, a hand carving Jesus, Mary and Joseph made out of olive wood. I can tell where it is from just by looking at it. It was made in Bethlehem! More particularly, the tag of origin says it was made in the West Bank. Moreover it is a Christmas tree ornament, and this was the first year, due to a stranger's generosity, we were given a real tree for Christmas late on December 23rd. It is the family's first real Christmas tree ever in the US.

It shows my Grandmother's ability at prescience (which is often surprising, -like sending N an alligator puppet while we lived in Chicago which got returned to sender and didn't arrive to us 'til we'd arrived in FL). It shows her attention to detail and respect for origins...

For it is a return gift for a carving I sent to her Christmas 2006. That Christmas shopping season walking through a mall I was surprised by a kiosk of religious icons carved in olive wood, which I recognized instantly. I knew they had been made in Bethlehem or the immediate surrounding environs. In 1988 my father took our entire family on a religious pilgrimage to Israel. Because of the stricture of an extremely high cost of living we resorted to living in the West Bank, -specifically we lived in the village above Bethlehem, which in the land we called home would be considered a municipality. Bethlehem is inhabited by Christians, and the Palestinian town we were living in was Christian as well. This is where the religious [Christian] olive wood icons are carved. When we lived there, they were sold throughout Jerusalem, catering to Christian tourists.

Speaking to the retailer at the kiosk, I learn that the selling of icons from the West Bank is now prohibited in Israel. So the initiative was taken to bring the icons to US shores. This is the reason I am staring at a kiosk of icons in a Clearwater FL mall, -that have come straight from Bethlehem. One family member from the wood carving business has taken it upon himself to bring the icons here to sell so these people can still make a living. I persuade my husband to buy two of these carvings for my mother and grandmother.

So my grandmother is returning the gift. The second gift A opens that morning is from 10 000 villages.

What I learned from this was the transmission thru generations, whether they are conscious of it are not. All my childhood my parents kept the 'one Christmas present per day' rule over the entire Christmas season. There was no orgy of presents on Christmas morning. It was an anti-consumerist statement before the word existed, built on the bedrock of Christian austerity.

(They employed the same technique to Halloween candy.)

I never knew my grandmother thought the same way, or may have ever employed the same technique, until receiving this Christmas package from her for my children. I can see roots reaching back past my own time in this aspect and that is revelatory.

This is my parable for the season on what the Christmas Spirit represents -this year, what I derived from it.