Having just watched the movie Elvis, this song kept running through my head this Christmas because it was true–we definitely had a blue Christmas this year. Not blue in an unhappy way, but in a physical way..like the color your skin turns when you are cold. Our power went out shortly after lunch on Christmas Eve Day and remained off until mid-afternoon on Boxing Day, December 26. So we had no power to cook or to light our house or to display our Christmas tree or other similiar Christmas traditions. Of course, all this was taking place just as winter storm Elliot hit, plunging temperatures into the teens and making it the coldest Christmas North Carolina has seen in many, many years.
The lack of power scuttled most of our Christmas plans. Santa sent us a text saying it was too dark for him to tell whose stocking was whose, so he was skipping our house Christmas but would be back to deliver our presents next week when he could see. So we decided to postpone our Christmas gift giving and meal plans until then as well. Maybe for the first time we’ll celebrate Christmas on Epiphany, when the wise men or Three Kings were supposed to have arrived to give the baby Christ his presents. That might be fun.
So with no light, no power, limited usage of technology to preserve precious battery life for when we really needed it, no presents to unwrap, no food to prepare, and almost no where to go since almost everything is closed on Christmas, it gave me a lot of time to think. I realized this was like our own Grinch-stolen Christmas. With all of our traditional Christmas trappings shut down, could I still find Christmas in my heart? Was there a way to make this become our best Christmas ever?
First of all, I acknowledged how lucky we were. Yes, it was cold and dark, but it was merely uncomfortable, not dangerous. We had a nice well-insulated house, we had nice warm beds with down sleeping bags to help keep us warm, and we had a fireplace with a stack of fire logs. We were probably way better off than many of the hundreds of thousands of othere North Carolinians who had lost power because of the storm. And things in North Carolina were NOTHING compared with others up North, such as the incredible blizzards in Buffalo, NY that we would later learn killed too many people. So while it wasn’t my preference, I felt grateful for how well prepared we were to get through this period without power.
We also had the advantage that on Christmas Eve night, we went to our Spiritual Center’s Christmas Eve service and dessert buffet afterwards. We had given up our physical space during COVID, since we couldn’t keep paying rent for a space when our congregation couldn’t meet physically, so this was our first Christmas Eve get-together in several years. It was a beautiful service that warmed us both physically and emotionally, reminding us that Christmas and all the other celebrations during this darkest time of the year (in the Western Hemisphere, at least) were really recognitions that the spiritual light within us shines on regardless of external conditions. Keeping that in mind helped our spirits stay high despite the cold in our house.
Then, of course, we also had the support of our friends. Several people invited us to stay with them, which we declined for several reasons, including wanting to stay with our three cats and take care of things at home so that the pipes didn’t freeze, etc. Finally on Christmas night, one of my friends insisted we stay with her, so we left the water running and the cats with full bowls of food and water and clean litter boxes and spent the night there. That was a lovely way to cap off Christmas night, with Prosecco and Danish Raspberry Kringle and warm beds and, most of all, friendship and fellowship.
Now that it is over, I can see that besides the support of friends, family, and spiritual community, we lived out another favorite Christmas trope…Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. For we were visited by…or for 2 out of 3, we visited them…three Christmas spirits, whom I would call angels rather than ghosts.
Our first angels were at our local bagel place, NYC Bagel Cafe (https://nycbagelscafe.com), which is less that a half-mile walk from our home. We drove by there Christmas Eve on our way home from the service, and were delighted to see that they were open Christmas morning (and were then taking the next several days off). On Christmas morning, I went there to get a warm Christmas breakfast, made by people who left their own families to serve us instead. Have I ever had bagels for Christmas before? Maybe? While I can’t remember a time I did, and our Christmas breakfast traditions are different, I can’t reject outright the idea I’ve never had a Christmas bagel. However, I know for sure that I’ve never had a Bagel BLT for Christmas before. I almost never have those at all, but BOY, was that a Christmas treat! So I’m so grateful for those angels who got up early Christmas morning and left their homes and their families to make our Christmas breakfast/lunch. .
Our next angels were Samreen Nawaz and her husband, chef Syed Yousuf (and their 3 sons), owners of our favorite Pakistani/Indian restaurant, Kababish (https://www.kababishcafe.com). In another Christmas first, obviously we were going to have to eat at a restaurant for Christmas dinner. While one of my favorite scenes from the movie The Santa Clause is Tim Allen and his son eating Christmas Eve dinner with all the other divorced dads at Denny’s, I didn’t want to emulate it. I figured we would be doing a Chinese dinner a la A Christmas Story. However, looking at a list of open restaurants on the WRAL website, I was delighted to discover that Kababish was open that night.
The thing about Kababish is that not only do they serve delicious food in a beautiful setting, but Sam and Syed are such warm and loving people that they make you feel like family after you’ve come a few times. We have watched their sons, who started working in the restaurant from an early age, grow up, as they have watched our son grow up. So eating our Christmas dinner at Kababish felt like an alternative family dinner, even though Sam and Syed are Muslim instead of Christian.
Christmas night, we had our favorite Indian/Pakastani dishes is a warm and welcoming environment, served by Sam and Syed and their three sons. Having heard about our power difficulties, they insisted on giving us a free meal as their New Year’s present to us. We had brought them a Holiday card and one of my son’s art calendars for 2023, so at least we had an exchanging of gifts. But the Nawaz/Yousuf family was certainly our second set of angels.
Christmas night, I spoke to a friend who used to work in the power industry and after going through his list of questions about our situation, he advised us that the problem was probably within our home’s electrical system rather than an issue with Duke Energy, so we would have to call an electrician. Early December 26, I did just that. I called someone recommended by another friend (as the Beatles said, we got by with a little help from our friends), feeling a little guilty because Monday was at least the federal holiday for Christmas. However, Bobby Cockrell of Cockrell’s Electrics answered my call right away and was as sweet and accommodating as could be. Not only was he willing to come out that day, but he said he usually doesn’t work holidays but he would have come out Christmas Eve day so we wouldn’t be cold on Christmas. He and his assistant Rob showed up at our agreed time and restored our power in under 10 minutes. Luckily, it didn’t seem to be a major or ongoing issue; he assumed it was caused by the the power surges that were happening due to the combination of the unusually cold weather and all the extra electrical usage around Christmas (lights, lots of electronics, extra cooking, etc.). He was such a nice guy, and his rates were very generous. If you are in the Triangle NC area and need an electrician, I recommend him highly. You can reach him at 919/427-5044. He and Rob are, of course, the third set of our angels.
When things like this happen, I always try to see the bright side. What is the lesson? What is the silver lining?
First, I loved the support from my local friends, mostly the moms I homeschooled or raised our children with or members of our spiritual community. We got inviitations to meals and sleep-overs, even though it was Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. We got encouraging texts or emails, even amongst busy family gatherings. We got the resources and information we needed to solve the problem (as opposed to waiting around to hear from Duke Energy, who still hasn’t gotten back to us as promised…but I also know they had their hands full). Usually on Christmas, I’m pretty much focused just on my immediate family, but this year I was connecting with my chosen-family friends in my favorite communities.
Then, of course, I liked this idea that we were living the Christmas stories I watch on video every year. I was proud of us for not waking up Christmas and having a big BOO HOO, as the Grinch expected from the Whos when he stole their Christmas. We didn’t sit around and complain; we did the best we could do under the circumstances. We tried to let our inner lights shine to make up for the fact that our electric lights were off. As in A Christmas Story, our meals may not have been traditional, but they were delicious and made from love and a commitment to serving others, which make them pretty special. And they ended up being cheaper and way easier for me! Finally, I am touched that we had three angelic visitations, with such kindness from some people who were basically strangers to us. In the end, it was a Christmas with a whole lot of love, and that’s what Christmas is really about, isn’t it?
Finally, how can I be anything but grateful for the fact that our loss of power was merely inconvenient and uncomfortable, not dangerous or life threatening? I felt so much sympathy for those areas up North or out West where the cold was actually life threatening, and spent time sending them love and light energy. But more than anything, it made me think about the people in the Ukraine. So many of them are without power and water, not just at Christmas, but for days or weeks at a time in more severe weather than North Carolina ever experiences. But in addition to the cold and the dark, they need to be ready for someone bombing their shelter. Realizing that is an everyday reality for thousands of people right now, how could I possibly complain about having to go for a couple of days without power?
I also thought about how we had plenty of food around to snack on even if our bagel shop or Kababish hadn’t been open. Or frankly, we are well-fed enough that we could go several days without food at all. But that is not the case for so many people around the globe. Again, knowing that there are those suffering from hunger on a daily basis, how can I feel bad about the disruption to my plans about our Christmas meals (especially since they ended up being wonderful)?
I am still processing the lessons from this experience. But one thing I have decided. As my initial New Year’s Resolution, I am going to give the money I saved from NOT having power and NOT eating a big Christmas meal and savings from the generousity of my angels to two organizations I’ve supported regularly, at least this year: Heifer International (https://www.heifer.org), whose mission is “Ending Hunger and Poverty While Caring for the Earth”, and Razom (https://www.razomforukraine.org), an American-based organization providing critical humanitarian war relief and recovery for Ukraine. So first thing on New Year’s Day, I will make a donation in honor of my angels to these two organizations.
I can’t think of a better way to kick off 2023 than paying forward the gifts I received during this Blue Christmas experience.
2 thoughts on “We Had a Blue, Blue, Blue, Blue Christmas…As Well as a Grinch, A Christmas Carol, and A Chrismas Story Christmas”
Glad you had such a resourceful and joyous couple of days, despite no power. You highlighted many great local and beyond organizations and businesses, thanks for doing that! We did not lose power in our part of town, and also were fortunate and grateful. Happy 2023!
Lovely true story, my friend. You definitely made lemonade out of lemons!
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