Cherished holiday memories
For believers, Christmas isn't just about the presents under the tree or the indulgent feast.
It's a time of service and reflection; an opportunity to share Christ's love with the people who matter to us most.
The Royal Gazette asked people in the faith-based community to share their most cherished holiday memories with us.
Here's what they said:
Gospel saxophone artist Gianluca Gibbons has had a lot of great Christmas moments, but there's one that stands out above the rest.
“I recall one Christmas a few years ago when Hamilton Seventh-day Adventist Church was feeding the homeless in the Youth Centre,” the 24-year-old said. “They asked me to provide musical entertainment during the meal, along with a small band. I initially had no interest in participating. I knew there was going to be no rehearsal and, secondly, I had no desire to leave the comfort of my home on Christmas Day. Thankfully I got over myself and decided to go.
“Upon arriving, I was instantly put to work, setting up tables, moving chairs, decorating, etc. Once everything was in place we began playing music as our guests arrived.
“While I played I saw the smiles on their faces, I could feel their joy. Some even began singing and clapped at the end of each tune.
“At that moment I was reminded what Christmas was really about. I almost lost out on this awesome experience, but God led me there to open my eyes. He taught me what Christmas is really about, giving of yourself and spreading the love Jesus Christ.”
Pastor Karsten Decker, of Peace Lutheran Church, said his fondest holiday moments were from his childhood in Germany.
“Traditions are slightly different there,” he said. “Leading up to Christmas was the Advent season, a time of anticipation. For four weeks every Sunday afternoon we would light one more candle on the Advent wreath, sing Advent carols, play the recorder, crack nuts, eat oranges and listen to stories together, knowing that once all four candles were lit Christmas was really close. In addition, we had Advent calendars with 24 doors with coloured pictures behind. That helped us children to wait for Christmas.
“On Christmas Eve morning my father would take us seven children in the forest where we picked, cut and paid for our Christmas tree and afterward helped him — I wonder how much help we really were — to put it in the stand. In the afternoon we decorated it with my mother. After sunset we went to the church services in the three village churches my father was the pastor of because we usually participated in the nativity plays there; my mother had written new scripts every year.”
The festivities would then continue at Pastor Decker and his siblings would play until their parents called them to line up outside the living room for the big reveal.
“The door was opened and there was the tree, decorated with real candles,” he said.
“Under it were mountains of gifts covered with bed sheets. We sang several carols, then my mother would read from the Christmas story in Luke 2, which we had played out three times already that night. After that we received our gifts which my father would pull out one after the other from under the sheets.
“After ‘Bescherung' [the gift presentation] we sat down for a delicious family dinner. We were allowed to play with the new toys as long as we wanted that night, usually after midnight.
“When we were young it was said that the Christ Child had brought the presents, not Santa Claus, who in Germany comes on St Nicklaus Day [December 6] and only brings sweets, nuts and fruits which were left in our polished shoes at the house door.”
Eighteen-year-old Janaya Hall, a member of Calvary Gospel Chapel, said her most memorable Christmas Day was two years ago.
It was a simple day, but included lots of time praising Jesus.
“My mother's extended family were all at my house, and all the ‘under-21s' were in my room, either playing Xbox or on an instrument, making music and singing together,” she said.
“Music has always meant so much to me and I love how praising God together can bring us not only closer to Him, but to each other.”
Lynwood Richardson, aka Hott 107.5 radio host Brotha Ritchie, said 2013 was one of his favourite Christmases.
Just a few years before he had gone through a really dark time in his life and faith. God eventually brought him out of that and into a space where he was at peace and able to enjoy his family and friends once again.
“I was in a healthy state of mind and was able to enjoy just being around my grown children and wife, laughing and eating some good food, and being comfortable in my own skin, so much so, that I was able to relish in just being in the presence of those that I knew loved me,” Mr Richardson said.
“Many will never understand and appreciate how precious the gift of a sound mind is until they lose it! I was diagnosed with rapid cycling bipolar disorder [a pattern of frequent, distinct episodes in bipolar disorder that occur at least four times a year] so I am a walking miracle to say the least.”
Asha Ratteray has had many special Christmas moments over the years. The most recent was last year when she was welcomed with open arms into a close friend's home.
“Last year is when I spent my first Christmas outside of Bermuda,” she said. “I spent it with the family of a school friend of mine here in Jamaica, where I'm in my final year of medical school.
“The family was so loving and generous, they truly embraced the Christmas spirit, welcoming my mother, sister and I into their home for the day.
“We had a completely different menu then what we are accustomed to having during the Christmas season, including curry goat, jerk chicken, rice and peas and mannish water. It was all delicious.”