A Christmas Without Santa
If you were to ask my children which Christmas was their favorite growing up, they will all tell you it was the Christmas when Santa didn’t come. We were living in a little island kingdom in the South Pacific called Tonga. We made plans to take the children to the place where their father was raised, which is a remote island called Pangai, Ha’apai, a tiny dot in the middle of the Tonga Islands.
We took a boat called the Olovaha , a ferry and cargo ship, from the main island of Tonga to Ha’apai. The boat ride was about twelve hours long over night. We also took along six bicycles, one for each of us, so we could ride around the small island. The boat was filled with passengers, pigs, crops and bicycles. We had rented a small cabin with bunk beds so we could get a little rest. The boat swayed back and forth all the way, and we were so glad to finally arrive on the tiny island where we would spend Christmas Day.
We had told the children that Santa probably would not find us since we were not at home, but that we would take them to a little shop to purchase a toy for their Christmas gift. They were perfectly fine with that. We stayed in a small cinder block home near the wharf. We got to pump the water by hand to get it into the home so we could take a shower and wash the dishes. There was no water heater, but since it was the hottest time of the year in Tonga, the cool water felt refreshing.
We found a small tree that we cut and put in our temporary home for our Christmas tree. We decorated it with balloons, crepe paper and shells we found on the beach. We bought the children some squirt guns and candy for them to find on Christmas morning. We spent Christmas day riding our bikes back and forth and playing at the pristine beaches looking for shells and enjoying the cool water. It was a Christmas similar to what their father had every year growing up.
Several of the neighbors shared their Christmas dinner with us. They sent over plates of delicious local food, including fish, lobsters and octopus which they had caught, and root crops which they grew that we thoroughly enjoyed. One of the neighbors had goats and a couple of kids (baby goats). The children had fun playing with the goats and playing with the neighbor children. They did not have any more toys than what our children had. Although they didn’t have very much, they all seemed very happy and content.
This Christmas was a very special one for our family. It was a peaceful and beautiful experience where we could remember the humble circumstances under which the Christ child had come to this earth.
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