our last Christmas in Sicily


Christmas Eve

Honestly, it gives me some joy to say “our last” here because we love and miss our family so much!  You know how wonderful it is to be with all your loved ones for the holidays. We sent heaps of emails and spent hours video chatting with our family on Christmas Day, but it still isn’t the same as sitting around the dinner table or going to the candlelight service or enjoying Christmas morning together.

Therefore, in answer to my family’s requests that they see as much of our Christmas as I can, I took photos all day long!  I know they’re going to love seeing them here. Elliott and I knew our children were getting gifts from their grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, and uncles, so we chose to keep things very simple and just gave them each a Sicilian Christmas ornament. We also spent our Christmas cooking, reading by the fire, and going on a wonderful hike into the valley below our house.

Here are a few photos from our Christmas!


Elliott has been tending fires in our fireplace almost every day that he’s home this winter. He often banks the fire at night and coaxes the still-warm coals to life in the morning. I totally love this about him.


Gil’s up and the fire’s lit, so Lena is choosing the first present to open!


Love how Gil is admiring Lena’s new-found destructive tendencies here. “Get it, sista.”


Reading the letters on the package before opening it up.


New books from Marmee and Grampa! My favorite is Extra Yarn, a beautifully illustrated picture book about a girl who knits and knits… so you know the knitter in me just loves it!


Speaking of knitting, this was my favorite present: a set of interchangeable knitting needles that I’ve been dreaming about for a year. Elliott and the kids, meanwhile, enjoy his new bath pillow. This man and his baths!


Thank you, GG and Great-Grampie!


The members of the nativity quake in their sandals once again


Lena’s new lacing cards from Auntie Eden and Uncle Charlie were an immediate hit. I love to see her being crafty…


… so we’ll work on technique later!


He melts my heart about 492 times a day.


OK, 493 times a day!


While Gil napped, Lena and I made cinnamon rolls. I used Elliott’s mom’s recipe at his request, and thankfully they turned out fairly similar to the Christmas morning breakfast he grew up loving. As of 3pm on Dec 26th, all 25 rolls have been eaten, so I guess he liked them!


Taking a break to read some of our new books by the fireplace. While they read, I was enjoying this cookbook… just as delicious as it looks.


When Gil woke up from his morning nap, we took a walk into town, where we found our town’s nativity scene. Maybe it was made by local school children? The sign says, “Christ is born for us. Come, let us adore.”


We hiked down into the valley and came across our farmer friend’s dogs. They’re all so sweet… and there are so many of them…


Picnic lunch.


Our children and our Sicilian town on Christmas Day.


We returned home to video chat with family (which was unfortunately right after the kids’ naps and they cried the whole time… sigh) and open a few more more presents. Gil eats wrapping paper as Lena plays her current favorite game while wearing my new Weekender bag like a “packpack”: “So… I’m gonna go to fool [school]. I gotta catch da bus. Oh no… da pigeon is driving da bus!!!”


She completely fell in love with this learning game from Auntie Em while I made our Christmas dinner.


And our Christmas dinner was the infamous lamb, of course. Elliott declared it “a triumph, my dear”… whew! I had a harder time eating the lamb that I’d expected. There were not very many steps in between seeing that lamb hanging in the butcher shop and eating it myself!

We burned slim beeswax candles that we bought three Christmases ago in Jerusalem; we met there for our first married Christmas when Elliott was on a yearlong solo assignment in Egypt. So much to be thankful for this Christmas, including the fact that we are together, even if our extended family is far away.

After the kids were in bed, Elliott and I spent awhile reading the story of Jesus’ birth from Luke and praying by the fire. I have been thinking a great deal this Advent season about how Jesus became poor, humbling himself to a fragile human embryo, a messy birth process, a cold and rustic world. For us these days, Christmas is all about comfort — family, gifts, food, firelight — but there was very little comfort that first Christmas. I am so grateful for the sacrifice Jesus made so that we have both immediate and eternal comfort to enjoy.

What are you most grateful for this Christmas?

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14 Responses to our last Christmas in Sicily

  1. Poppy December 26, 2013 at 6:48 pm #

    So very thankful for Gil, Lena, Becca and Elliott Garber!! Such wonderful pictures and commentary. We hope you all are closer next year, dv, and we are grateful (in a warm, Sicilian, Elliott-tended fireplace kind-of-way) for all the memories built into these early years of your family. Precious you are to us, yes, precious…..

    • Becca December 27, 2013 at 7:26 am #

      Thank you so much for encouraging us to come here and establish our family here. It really has happened, and I know we will move back to the States with a strong sense of who we are as a family. I am grateful for this long, sweet, simple years here, even though we missed being closer to you guys!

  2. esther December 26, 2013 at 7:58 pm #

    LOVE your sweet family! You are so blessed!

    • Becca December 27, 2013 at 7:26 am #

      Love you and Casey too! So excited for what God has in store for both our little families this year!

  3. Abi December 27, 2013 at 2:13 am #

    The way we revealed to Loli that we were expecting Lucie was by giving her a copy of “Extra Yarn” with a message that we hoped she would enjoy reading it with her newest grandchild, so needless to say it is one of my favorites too! There is so much to be thankful for this Christmas, but I am especially grateful that Lucie gets to spend her time away from me each day with her abuelos- what a gift to her and to us as a family! Lots of love to you from the Ibarras!

    • Becca December 27, 2013 at 7:27 am #

      I do remember you telling me about that book back then! Such a sweet way to share the news. Miss you, sweet Abi!

  4. Katie December 27, 2013 at 4:41 am #

    What a lovely Christmas. I love those Eric Carle lacing cards! And Gil’s hair just keeps getting cuter with all those curls. I am not a Christian but it so nice to see people who celebrate the true meaning of Christmas and really take it to heart.

    I am grateful for my nephews! I became an aunt for the first time on the 21st. So excited to watch them grow up and have holidays with my kids :)

    • Becca December 27, 2013 at 7:27 am #

      Oh, Katie, we cannot wait for cousins! I would be SO grateful for one of those!!!

  5. Lucy December 27, 2013 at 4:43 am #

    I Love every one of these precious pictures and the commentary, getting this glimpse into your Christmas gift opening. It’s better than I could have imagined, with Lena and Gil eagerly unwrapping gifts, the hike, the fire, the Christmas lamb dinner….We passed the computer around today so everyone around the table enjoyed all the pictures!

    • Becca December 27, 2013 at 7:28 am #

      So glad you enjoyed the photos! We hope you can see us opening gifts in person next year!

  6. Jennifer December 27, 2013 at 6:16 am #

    As always, I am so amazed by this life you lead! :) Thanks for a great post, Becca. My Jackson got that sorting pie game as well … big hit! :) We need to chat sometime about what its like living overseas. Justin from time to time has the opportunity to put in for lateral assignments in Europe. The idea sounds fabulous to me in many, many ways … however, I see my my about 5 days/week … and I just cannot imagine having no extended family close by. Esp. since Justin would be gone several nights/week … and my parents would not have the money to come visit at all. So … when you have the chance … give me the true “experience” overview in your opinion. Most of the places we would have available would be larger cities like Frankfurt, Germany and Rome, Italy. Thoughts?
    Merry Christmas!
    Jen Heath (Bates)

    • Becca December 27, 2013 at 7:30 am #

      Sure, Jen, I’d love to. I know our life has been made a lot easier by being a part of a military community and having lots of resources (American grocery store, the protection of the military, the support of the housing dept on base when things didn’t go well with our “Italian villa”). If we were on our own completely other than, say, Elliott’s work, that would make being here much more challenging.

      I’ll email you with more thoughts!

  7. Becca Arthur January 8, 2014 at 2:51 am #

    Hi Friend. Just checked out “Extra Yarn” from the library at your recommendation – so cute! Also got a new-to-me Caldecott Medal Winner called “Song and Dance Man” – I think you’d like it. :) Hooray for Kapla Blocks! I think we need a second batch now that we have so many builders in our midst.

  8. Evelyn January 16, 2014 at 11:01 am #

    Hi! This post could not be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my good old room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this page to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!

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