The holidays can be difficult for Peace Corps Volunteers. At a time when much of the celebration is centered around friends and family, many volunteers find themselves thousands of miles away from their loved ones. The traditions they grew up on are nearly impossible replicate in a new foreign land, and, for many, dreaming of a white Christmas is impracticable, to say the least.
Yet, the volunteers I talked to reflected fondly on their Peace Corps holiday memories. They reveled in the simplicity of the celebrations they had, which were stripped down from the commercial hype and pretense that tends to come with celebrating the holidays in the US.
They tell stories of celebrating with newly found family and friends in their community, sharing large meals with fellow volunteers, and crafting makeshift Christmas trees from Styrofoam packing material.
I only spent one Christmas in Burkina Faso when I served as a volunteer, but it was an unforgettable celebration filled with food, song, and dance. There were no gifts, but I could have cared less. My community of Muslims and Christians came together to celebrate with one another.
The second Christmas during my service, I was fortunate enough to travel back home. That Christmas will likely be one of my favorite Christmas’s with my family, given how much I enjoyed being with my family. I brought back simple souvenirs as gifts, which were all I could afford. Yet, my friends and family loved them. Four years later, those gifts are still proudly displayed, unlike all the other countless knickknacks I’ve given over the years.
I wish you the very best this holiday season and hope you take time to enjoy the many gifts of the season.