On this day, thoughts always return to Christmases past. Going back in time, I remember favorite gifts, special times spent with family and friends, and the Christmases of trials and struggles.
This year, we are celebrating new life, health, and blessings. Last year, when I was sick with pneumonia and my sister was fighting for her life at the Mayo Hospital, we did not celebrate Christmas together and it was a difficult time.
I remember 2004, the gift of tickets for our first trip to Iceland and how excited I was - even though it was cold and sleeting the entire time. :)
The Christmas of 1982 - I remember how mad I was at my husband for purchasing a used piano. He wanted me to have one but we barely had enough money for food much less a piano. We still have this piano today and it is so very cherished. It has been through many moves, has been touched by many fingers, and is very full of precious memories after all these years.
I remember Christmas as a child. Growing up on the Ólafsson farm with my parents, grandparents, great grandparents, two sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins all around was always a busy and lively time. Living next-door to Amma and Afi where both Icelandic and American traditions, food, and music we're celebrated side-by-side helped to shape my life today in so many ways.
I think about how the Christmas celebrations must have been for my grandparents as they grew up and learned how to work hard on the farms homesteaded by their parents.
With tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat, I think of their parents and grandparents (my great grandparents and great great grandparents), who emigrated from Iceland --- never to see their homeland again. They could not Skype or call, could not go online and check in with Facebook. No, they left for the unknown ... To think about their choice and how they had nothing but a small trunk, a few pennies, and the clothes on their back. How was their first Christmas in North America - struggling to survive, the bitter cold weather, missing their friends and family ... missing their homeland? It is truly unfathomable.
They set off for America bringing their traditions, culture, language, music, books, and more than anything -- their love of Iceland. They taught us, in the ways they knew, and now it is up to us to remember their sacrifices and their triumphs.
At Christmas, we honor and remember these Christmases past. We value people over things and honor our ancestors. We remember those who are suffering and lonely. We give thanks for electricity, plumbing, warm homes, tables laden with delicious food, a beautiful Christmas tree, decorations, music, family, friends, and a church filled to over-flowing with people celebrating Christ's birth - the reason for today - glorious Christmas.
May you and your family be blessed today and each day. May your burdens be light and may you count your life by smiles and not tears.
We still sing this beautiful song every year at Christmas, Heims um ból - Silent Night. Enjoy this video with the Icelandic text on the screen. Gleðileg jól - Merry Christmas!