Christmas, Chinese cookies, & a Crazed Coffee dude…REALLY???

back of the book

~ Yesterday morning after I left Christmas morning Mass I couldn’t help but notice how calm the city looked. It was Noon time and everything was closed saved for a couple gas stations here and there; all my favorite little Indie-coffee shops were closed, and even though I was a bit sad about that, I suddenly came across one of the Mermaid coffee shops and my spirit brightened, “Hell yea! Coffee shop is open!” I said to myself

Was this bad? Had I become an awful consumeristic Western individual by going into a retail business on Christmas day to get a coffee and take a few minutes to read?

To be honest, I don’t tend to get hung up on little particulars like that, although as I sat there reading my book on Eastern Philosophy and how people in the East think differently than people in the West, I couldn’t help but wonder how much has changed here in North America over the last couple hundred years.

And then, later in the day yesterday my loved ones said they wanted Chinese food for Christmas dinner, and since I’d been cooking a lot over the past week it sounded like a nice break from the kitchen. With my coffee in hand, I swooped over to the local Chinese restaurant and stood patiently in line. The kitchen at the restaurant has an open view so that the patrons can watch the cooks; two women in the back stood before a massive table with meat stacked up high. They were quietly attacking the meat with huge chopping knives and then tossing them over to the next table where another cook would prepare the meat for the deep fryer.

A lot has changed in North America over the last couple hundred years. For instance, when the Chinese came to North America hundreds of years ago, they were largely persecuted and treated harshly by Americans. The mainly Christian Americans resented the unbelieving Chinese and their strange Eastern ways, and so the Americans made life very difficult for the Chinese. Racism, persecution, bigotry, all existed in varying forms against these people who had come from the Far East in search for greater freedom, peace, and a better way of life.

Now, on Christmas day when all the Christians stop working to honor our God, we all cram the line at the local Chinese restaurant taking advantage of these non-Christian believing Chinese Americans. To quote Cat Stevens, “It’s a wild world”.

I’m happy the coffee shop was open. It wasn’t one that I hang out at very much, yet within five minutes of sitting down I had met a new friend and we chit chatted about the day’s events.

The Chinese Restaurant is one I frequent on occasion (though I prefer Indian food as a general rule) and the woman at the counter has gotten to know me over the years; there were a lot of people ahead of me, but when she saw me she politely and quietly put together my order and let me bypass the line.

The world has changed a lot over the past two hundred years. Yet as I sat there at Mass on Christmas morning I couldn’t help but think of my 21 year old cousin who died last week. As much as the world has changed, we still face the reality of death. You and I are going to die. And while some people might think that is too depressing of a thought, I often wonder if it has to be. After all, for those of us who believe in something more, something deeper, something beyond the façade of this life, perhaps death isn’t so bad.

I’m reminded of the verse,

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven– A time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.…

When death comes suddenly there is a time to grieve, yet at some point we must rise from our grief and go on living. It seems to me that we shouldn’t fear death, we shouldn’t become so consumed with dying that it prevents us from living.

I’ve been studying ancient Indian and Chinese philosophy over the last week, and they too place a lot of emphasis on not being afraid of death. They focus their thoughts on such things that bring more peace to one’s life and it is a refreshing thought; why focus so much on the bad? Too much of this world is focused on the bad, because to put it quite simply; there is a lot of bad in the world.

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven– A time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.…

The Christmas holiday has been a time for me to contemplate, to think about life undistracted from work. But now as I look at the clock this beautiful sunny Friday morning, I realize it’s time for me to go to work, good timing, I’m down to the last drop of coffee,


Categories: Culture & Society

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13 replies

  1. I tried very hard NOT to go out and buy anything yesterday. I don’t like the idea of people working on Christmas because people like me can’t survive a day without buying anything. But then the kids wanted batteries for something – wanted, not needed – and so off I went to the local variety store. And it was run by a Muslim man who was happy for the business. So, I added a few more things to the basket. Society changes, and things are different to all sorts of different people.

  2. Hi Kenneth – great post. 🙂 “When death comes suddenly there is a time to grieve, yet at some point we must rise from our grief and go on living. It seems to me that we shouldn’t fear death, we shouldn’t become so consumed with dying that it prevents us from living.”
    I like that paragraph. Seems you’re on a journey right now you didn’t ask for. I’m so sorry. But trust me, it will be good in the long run…….
    As Christians we tend not to think of a bigger picture (strange, because we all boast of a bigger God) – life on this earth is a chapter – then comes eternity and this chapter continues into the next…….. I hope to get this chapter right, LOL, we tend to compartmentalize (is that the word?) – birth, life, salvation somewhere along the way, we’re set, eternity….. when I think it all should flow together…..
    Anyway – I’m rambling. I have a lot to say on t his…. coffee?
    All that to say to you – God bless you on this part of your journey. 🙂

  3. Your reflections are right on target. My husband and I also spent some time in a Chinese restaurant yesterday, and I was struck by the fact that the owner (who has been in this country fifty years or more) was totally into the season, genuinely wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and accepting their holiday greetings in return. Time heals all wounds.

  4. Ohhh the excitment of locating a decent coffee shop on christmas day. I can totally relate.

  5. I don’t think it’s bad that you wanted to do what relaxes you most. It would be bad if that place was trying to close and you were preventing them from doing so by refusing to leave or throwing some kind of temper tantrum to get them to reopen and what not. They were open so they wanted you to come in…it works well that way. We have changed a lot and Lord knows I don’t want to be the Debbie Downer here but sadly some things remain; some scars are still there. Not everyone has allowed “time to heal all wounds” and some let their scars show and have big chips on their shoulders for things that happened too long ago. I know this because I live in an area with Native American tribal members – most are good people and want only to carry on their traditions, culture and heritage, but there is a good sized group that has a lot of reverse racism and they tend to feel sorry for themselves. They’ll accuse people of being racists pretty quickly (including myself for a mistake in an article one time) and generally act as though all those things happened yesterday. It’s unfortunate because they only hurt themselves more by doing that. As far as Christmas is concerned, I hope it continues to change for the better. It’s one thing for a few lil’ coffee shops, gas stations and a few restaurants to be open for travelers or those needing breaks from the kitchen, but I think it’s great that many are closed for the day so the employees can be with their families and/or friends on a holiday that is meant to be spent together. We mill around forgetting to do that so much of the year that it’s good to have a day or two set aside for it. Should we be making time for each other all year round…yes but until that happens more, having a day set aside is good…I think. 🙂

  6. I’m glad you could find an open coffee shop. Like you, I’m not sure what makes so many people fear death to the point of not really living their life. I am not Christian (I’m an athiest), but I don’t really fear death. I think when I die, I’ll just be recycled. So what? I hope to be able to say that I’ve lived the best way I possibly could with the time I have here on Earth. I’d like to see the point where everyone alive on this planet could have the life they want to live and all of us helping each other to do that.
    Well, it’s Christmas, so can I send a hopeful wish to Santa?

  7. Well, the Chinese have their holiday during the CNY… We have ours during Diwali. Or Onam, or whenever we feel llike it!

  8. It has been a contemplative season for me as well.

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