The Christmas Experience

Christmas is celebrated around the world; it’s the season during which Christians everywhere give thanks to God for the birth of Christ. Even if you do not celebrate Christmas, I am sure you are familiar with the story.

I am not going to attempt to teach you a bible class; instead I am going to share my experiences with you, and what I will be doing to celebrate this year.

One of my earliest memories about Christmas is of my eldest brother, Jean-Claude, (may he rest in peace) attempting to light what in Haiti is called a Fanal, a miniature lantern-like church make of cardboard and tissue paper.  I must have been four or five years old, but I vividly remember the event as if it was yesterday.  The Christmas tree stood in the corner of our living room. It was garnished with cotton to represent snow even though it never snows in the Caribbean.

As the tradition goes in Haiti, a candle is placed inside the fanal to illuminate this fragile piece of art, creating a stained-glass effect. We light up sparklers, firecrackers, fanal, it is quiet an animated holiday celebration.

Instead of lighting the fanal, my brother accidentally started a fire. The tree caught fire as some other items in the house. My grandmother, a tall, strong, fearless, no nonsense woman put the fire out.  Thank God we were all spared of what could have been a disaster; my grandmother had some burn to her arm.

Since that incident, I have always been cautious with Christmas trees. It affected me so much as a child that Christmas never really felt the same, even into adulthood.

It’s so funny how the holidays, which are supposed to be a joyous time of year, are a source of depression and sadness for many.  I struggled with that feeling for many years.  Having small children brought the excitement back to the holidays for me. I always enjoyed seeing my son and daughter’s faces as they tore into their gifts each year but as they grew older the focus of gifts seemed to get smaller and smaller. We always spend time together during the holidays but the excitement just wasn’t there anymore.

This year I am so excited that as a family, we decided to sponsor a family in need. I called my church and was given the name and number of a family who might not be able to make ends meet this holiday. After getting clothing sizes for all three children, my kids and I hit the stores.  Needless to say shopping for the family was so exciting.  We did it as a group, and this was the most time we have spent with each other in a long time.

We all can’t wait to meet the family on Christmas Eve; the children are ages 8, 6 and 5.  Seeing the joy on their faces as the open all of their toys and clothes is enough to keep me smiling for weeks.

I share this story with you because sometimes, it is easy to forget that there is so much joy in giving. I really anticipate this being the best Christmas I have had in years and it is simply because my kids and I decided to change our routine a little and focus on opening our hearts. Spending time with my kids was gift enough for me this season. The spirit of giving really brought Christmas to life for me this year.  It really is about lighting up someone’s life.

To those of you who celebrate, Merry Christmas and to those who don’t, may peace be with you.

Your feedback and questions are welcome. For specific personal coaching, you can email Immacula Oligario directly at or visit us online @

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