The Center . . .

Several weeks ago I was in a conference and one participant thought that American culture was superior to all other cultures.   What I saw that day was ethnocentrism — an attitude and position that assumes everything revolves around one’s particular cultural point of view — an attitude that believes that there is only way.  In a real sense, it is making one’s own way the center of the world.

Making ourself the center of the world may come in the form of the food we eat, the greetings we use, or the jokes we tell, the type of housing we believe is appropriate, etc.  When people make their way the center of the world, they judge other cultures solely in terms of their own culture. Such attitudes find expressions in feeling superior to others and labeling other people as inferior or even primitive.

I am thankful that my God did not have such an attitude and that we are given an excellent example of how we should live. The Bible says,

For, let this mind be in you that is also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal to God, but did empty himself, the form of a servant having taken, in the likeness of men having been made, and in fashion having been found as a man, he humbled himself, having become obedient unto death—death even of a cross. (Philippians 2:5-6, YLT)

That is the whole point of the Christmas season — our God, Immanuel, did not view us or anyone with an attitude of superiority, inferior, or even primitive. Instead, he became flesh and lived among us.

In this Christmas season, we can humble ourselves, not making our way the center of the world.  In what ways, could you not make your way the center of the world on behalf of others?

This Christmas Season, I will enjoy . . .

In a couple of weeks, people around the world will celebrate the Christmas festival.   Celebrations will take place by eating special types of food, listening to many forms of Christmas music, and practicing traditions handed down from one generation to another.  Their celebrations will become times of renewing and building group identity.

The Christmas festival serves as a way to bring affiliated individuals together, either for solidarity or to educate children and to share a variety of traditions.  In a real sense, they unite the family with wider communities, often sustain family traditions, and create family memories.

Our Children 2007This Christmas season, what will you enjoy?  Although I will miss the foods and friends of Asia this Christmas, I will enjoy being with family.   (Our children seen to the right.) As mentioned, Christmas sustains traditions and creates family memories.  Establishing family traditions is a great way to create a sense of togetherness, family harmony and family identity that can carry through from generation to generation.  Do you have any family traditions during the Christmas season?  For your family, family memories will come from Christmas this year?

 This Christmas Season, I will also enjoy the faith I have in Jesus Christ.  Needless to say, although food, friends, and family provide Christmas festivals with distinctiveness, faith unifies all those who celebrate Christmas.  I look foward to thanking God for coming to live among us as Immanuel (God with us).   The Bible says,

Therefore the Lord Himself giveth to you a sign, Lo, the Virgin is conceiving, And is bringing forth a son, And hath called his name Immanuel.  ( Isaiah 7:14, YLT)

May this Christmas be a time that you will enjoy food, friends, family, but may it also be a time to enjoy your faith!

This Christmas Season, I will miss . . .

People, especially their time and energy, are consumed with the search for and production of food.  Rightly so since the consumption of food is a basic need for all people.  The consumption of food, though, often provides distinctiveness and identity.  For instance, Jewish and Islamic practices concerning food reveal their sense of belonging.

Festivals are no different.  The consumption of certain types of food during festivals is a common practice.  In fact, food is often so closely tied with festivals that when a certain type of food is not present it seems as though the festival was not even celebrated.  As a result, food provides festivals with distinctiveness and identity.  It provides the participant with a sense of belonging.

While in the USA this Christmas season, I will miss certain foods, making Christmas appear as though it was not even celebrated.  A few include:

Fish Head CurryFish Head Curry

My favorite and a tradition that I have developed over the Christmas season.  Thus far, in the USA, I have found only one resturant (in New York city) that makes fish head curry, the spicy dish with lots of “lady fingers” (okra).  The eye ball is my favorite, how about you?

Good Chinese Food

Chicken and Prawn HeadAnother tradition we have during the Christmas season is eating Chinese food in Singapore.  We always order Pai Gu Wang (Chinese BBQ pork ribs), Kai Lan (Chinese vegetable with garlic), Sweet and Sour Fish Filet, Roasted Chicken with Plum Sauce, and Butter Prawns (Shrimp).

We will especially miss the chicken and prawn head this Christmas season.

Desserts

Red Velvet CakeI will miss my daughter’s famous red velvet cake.  Not too sweet but filled with lots of chocolate flavor.  Oh, and by the way, it does not have many calories, but who is counting anyway.  Maybe though, I won’t miss this one and my daughter will bake one for us.  I need to ask her to put this on her To-Do list.

Pumpkin PiePumpkin pie, another of my favorite and one that I indulge in with too many pieces.  I reckon that I won’t miss my fair share of pumpkin pie this year.

Well, I am sure that our Singapore friends will miss these.

Singapore friends, I will miss your carving the turkey.  Carving TurkeyI reckon that is what I will miss the most this Christmas season, our Friends.

Each year we celebrate Christmas with friends, all of us giving thanks for the blessings during the year and also for the Lord Jesus Christ being Immanuel, God with us.

I will also miss all of the fun outings together during this Christmas season with friends in Singapore.  Friends for ChristmasI, along with my wife, look forward to celebrating Christmas with them in 2008.

Friends give meaning to a festival.  These social networks create a sense of belonging.  Without them, just like food, the festival appears as though it was not celebrated.  It becomes just another day during the year, a day that is not distinct. 

However, when these two – food and friends – are present, festivals stand out with distinctiveness and identity.  Festivals then provide a sense of belonging and each year become anticipated events.

What will you miss this Christmas season?  What food will you miss during this Christmas season?  What friends will you miss?

Encounters and Experiences with Culture and People