it is another new tradition i was introduced into – the sweet december. it is a karen tradition to welcome the month of Jesus’ birth. when my pastor first told me, he said, “mink, join us on november 30 for the celebration. do not eat any food before you come because it will be a feast!” i did not quite get his meaning until i was actually there.
there were about 40 adults who were present. some older ladies were squatting down on the dirt floor with a big pot, quite similar to a cauldron to me, of the kanom jeen’s (a kind of noodles served in thailand and its neighboring country) soup. the recipe is from burma itself. an aunt told me that they were boiling banan trunk (the tender core of a banana tree)…?!?! i remembered wondering if it would taste like food. surprisingly, like any other karen traditions and culture, it was wonderful! the soup was mixed well with the touch of spices and lime.
another group of men were…well, it’s quite universal when it comes to BBQ…gathering around the grills. pork meat, pork skin and sticky rice with different kinds of hot sauce. 🙂 i tell ya, it was heaven for the youth group. they were “devouring” it!
in the middle of it all, there was a huge wooden mortar and pestle. a father, dark, plumb and red-faced, was working on the sticky rice dough (is there such phrase?). he was making a sticky rice dessert. thud, thud, thud…the sound of the pestle was like a machine working. a grandma was standing beside him sprinkling white sesame onto the warm dough. with them, me and “nu-nu” were waiting anxiously to get the 1st pinch of this heavenly dessert. it was warm…and sticky…and sesame-ey…and filling. i took only a few bites and couldn’t eat anymore because i was having a “her per gah”, a full stomach. 🙂
after everyone winded down from food, older people went inside the warm house to watch tv, talk and rest while some younger ones and children were outside running around, practicing the dance, singing christmas songs, playing games, fishing (there was a small fishing pond in the house!) and scrounging for more food.
at 11:20pm, when i thought i would fall asleep, the pastor, aunts, uncles, grandmas, grandpas and little ones were outside once again. some leaned against the wall of the house. some sat on the floor and some on the chairs. the night was quiet, deep and meaningful. although the wind made my teeth chatter and i had to embrace myself in the chair i sat on very tightly, the atmosphere was warm and loving. i was with my new family…with brothers and sisters and parents in Christ. and we were worshipping the Lord together.
with her thick burmese accent, thra-mu Trumay shared the word of God with us. i remember that i could catch more familiar vocabularies and phrases from the sermon although i wasn’t sure about the whole context. then we sang “joy to the world” in karen and prayed.
it was the usual kind of service but it was special. on that night, God opened my eyes to see another side of these people, the side i don’t usually find when at church. they were more laid-back and fun. it was like a family gathering…a thanksgiving meal…kind of…only with no turkey. 😉
when 12:00am struck, people wished each other “sweet december”.
it was a good way to start “december”. all over the world, people are getting ready for christmas festivity. many churches in thailand are working hard on the christmas “programs”. 4-5 years ago, i remember shedding a lot of tears because of stress and discontentment during christmas time. often, preparation can drag us away from meditating on the true meaning of Christmas.
the Lord has been speaking to me about rest and being still these past 2 weeks. i don’t want to be a person who runs around with no peace in her mind doing God’s business. sometimes we forget to ask Him what He wants from us. we think it might be good to do the evangelical concert or go on a mission trip so others may hear of Him. but do we hear Him clearly enough?
i will remember the quiet night and the deepening peace that came with the tradition…with the gathering of family members. and i hope that during this preceding time of Christmas, you will hear the Father speaking to you…whispering His love…and receive the blessings He bestows through rest and peace.
may your heart be still…and your love abounds in Christ. sweet december, everyone. 🙂