The palm trees did sway but we weren’t dreaming of a white Christmas, not in our lovely desert island of Tenerife. We were living in the North part of the island and the winters are jacket cool. There were masses of red poinsettias planted on the edge of the Ramblas, a walkway running through the middle of the main part of Santa Cruz. Some parts of the island had wild blooming poinsettias growing taller than a man. No we weren’t missing winter and snow.
Mike bought a potted Poinsettia at the African market that we used as a centerpiece for our Thanksgiving dinner with the missionaries. It was my only Christmas decoration. I enjoyed the simplicity of not decorating. It was interesting to see the way the Christmas spirit manifest itself in our missionary group. The elders seemed to be more sentimental than the sisters. They took their precious stipend and bought decorations at the nearby “Chino” store for their apartments. Some of them actually bought a tree with lights and decorations for it. The sisters didn’t seem to care. When two Elders moved to open a new area the President sent 2 new sisters to live in their apartment. When we helped them move in a month or so after Christmas there was still a little tree on a table with some decorations taped to the wall, but they didn’t last long.
We made paper snowflakes with our young adult group and hung them in the JAS room. One activity night the JAS made a nativity with popsicle sticks, a little paint and glitter. We made these again at our Sunday night Family Home Evening with the Santa Cruz ward. There is nothing quite as enjoyable as constructing a third grade craft. Another night we all took the tranvia to downtown Santa Cruz and sang Christmas Carols on the street. Large glowing musical notes were suspended across the streets with other festive sparkles and lights in the shop windows. It was a nice evening with some people on the walkway joining us for a song or two.
I wanted to make a little gift for all the missionaries and decided upon an idea to paint each of them a zentangle rock with baby Jesus on it. The inscription: “Jesus, the best gift,” a gift these wonderful missionaries gave every day in their service. We were looking forward to Christmas morning when all the missionaries from Los Cristianos and Santa Cruz would come to our piso for breakfast. I would share our gift then.
Mike and I drove to Orotava one Saturday evening to see the life size representation of life in Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ birth. I made a you-tube video with the pictures (you can find it there along with other videos of Tenerife and missionaries by searching my name). It was fun to see this ambitious display, as it filled up the entire city plaza with the culture of the time. We had dinner on the beach with the British tourists escaping the cold and fog in England. We also enjoyed walking the streets of La laguna during the season enjoying the lights, shoppers and shop windows.
On Christmas Eve the sisters and elders from Los Cristianos came to Santa Cruz for a Christmas Eve devotional together. I made something for dinner but can't remember what. Perhaps taco soup. The missionaries asked Mike to give the key note address. He worked very hard to be able to present it in Spanish without reading it and did a great job. We sang and had a few testimonies. That night the 4 sisters had a sleepover at our apartment and the Los Cristianos elders bunked somewhere with the Elders in our area. It was always a delight for us to have all the sisters sleeping over in our piso, which happened a few times. They chatted and laughed later than they should have and were a little crazy, especially if Sister Christian was there, but it was all uplifting for a group of homesick young women.
On Christmas morning the missionaries arrived with Santa and elf hats for some fun photo ops. I made my crusty bread into a cinnamon version, which I cut into strips to be dipped in thick European hot chocolate. We also had orange segments and scrambled eggs. I passed out my little gift, we took pictures (which was always important to them), some stayed to play cards for a while and some left for appointments. I actually don’t remember what we did the rest of the day but this is for sure: Nothing is more exciting than being with a group of awesome, full of life missionaries. We loved them dearly and were delighted and honored to spend this time with them and make their Christmas a little homier. Christmas can be hard for these young people and it means a lot to them to have a sense of family and tradition.
Because I had forgotten my camera on the night we sang carols in downtown Santa Cruz, Mike and I decided that we would have dinner in the city on New Year’s Eve and take photos of the lights. We were shocked to find very few people on the streets and all of the restaurants closed. It turns out that in the Spanish culture this evening is a night to stay home with friends and family, what a difference from America. We managed to find our neighborhood Chinese restaurant open (the best capitalists in Spain) and had a quiet dinner.
Christmas memories often run together in one continuous whole, but not this one. It will always stand out as a unique experience, in a wonderful place, with people that we will never forget and always cherish.