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December 10th, 2006

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03:04 pm - Christmas Choices
In the middle of the piles of presents yet to be wrapped and ribbons and bows and wrapping paper with the sounds of the Mormon Tabernacle choir singing "O Holy Night," I felt myself choking up and I fought back tears. The pure, stinging beauty of the music, the bittersweet feelings of gratitude and love and loss throughout the past year, and memories of joyful Christmases of my childhood suddenly combined in an almost overpowering surge of emotion.

For a moment, I just sat and listened to the music. I remembered how my parents always tried to make every Christmas special although we were short of money. There was love and laughter, games and candles, a Christmas tree and lights and hugs and candy. There was the tree skirt that Mom had made out of bits of brightly colored felt in the shapes of dolls and teddy bears and reindeer and candy canes. There was the little "Lifesaver Man" ornament that I'd made in some sort of Sunday School activity. There was the spinning ornament that Mom and Dad were always telling us not to mess with. There was the Swedish Tea Ring and coffee cake and Christmas carols and a fire in the fireplace making our home seem like a warm and safe haven from the Sierra Nevada mountain winters. There was the time that I put up stockings full of little gifts and candies for my Mom and Dad. (That same year they forgot to put up stockings for the kids. I still remember overhearing THAT conversation!)

I remembered how much I enjoyed trying to find presents that people would like -- not just some generic thing because of an obligation. To this day, I can generally recite a list of reasons why I bought a certain gift for a certain person. (Of course, sometimes the reason isn't much more than "I thought this was cool and hoped you would too!" but hey, we all have our blind spots.)

Somewhere along the way, I lost all of this. I don't know when or how, but it was something very precious to me and it had slipped away and I had barely noticed until now, with the Choir and the Chipmunks and Mel Tormé and Bing Crosby playing in the background.

(No, they weren't playing all at once. That wouldn't be emotional -- just frightening.)

At some point, Christmas became an obligation and not a celebration. It got to be about *having* to buy things for people, and having to decorate the house, and put up lights and take them down and ... hell ... don't we all have enough obligations in our life? With Christmas advertising starting before Halloween was even over, I'd somehow gotten caught up in the commercialization of the holiday until it became more of a job than anything else.

For me, it was a choice. I could choose to make my own Christmas and make it a joyful celebration of love and life and friends and family and all the wonderful things that the year has brought (as well as memories of other happy years), or I could choose to see only the marketing hype and let that dictate my feelings about the season. For the past several years, I'd chosen the latter and had hidden away, wishing it was all over.

I don't know why, but this year I wanted that precious thing back. I wanted the joy of trying to find fun things that my family would enjoy receiving and that I would enjoy giving. I wanted to see my Dad enjoying the decorations and choosing to take his afternoon naps on the couch in front of the Christmas tree instead of on the easy chair in the kitchen. (And if you knew my Dad, you'd know how bloody hard it is to get him to nap anywhere but that chair!) I wanted my little nephew to see some of the ornaments that his Daddy and I had made when we were children. I wanted a little of that childhood joy back in my life, and so I made my choice: to make it a celebration of friends and family, of warmth and plenty. With that choice, it's also a time to grieve over friends and family members lost in the last year and be grateful for any time with the ones who remain.

All I know is that this year, for me, I choose Christmas as I make it: a celebration of all things, good and bad, in the past year with hopes for the future.

This year, I'm remembering what Christmas is all about:


And Ham.

No, wait. I mean love and joy and peace on Earth. Yeah, that's it. I hope you're all enjoying or at least tolerating this crazy season.
Current Mood: nostalgicnostalgic

(9 comments | Leave a comment)


(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
Date:December 11th, 2006 12:16 am (UTC)
But remember the HAM!!!
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
Date:December 11th, 2006 03:16 am (UTC)
Heh. Oh, believe me, I know the feeling. I'm also not watching TV much. Just the plethora of "Every Kiss Begins with Kay" commercials make me want to retch.

I'm just making my own Christmas and screw them and their diamonds and furs and giant inflatable snow globes with dancing snowmen. I'm happy in my house with my hubby and my family nearby.

Oh, and by the way -- those holiday "busy bones?" Yeah. They keep the dogs busy all right. For about THIRTY SECONDS before they're entirely devoured.

Bah humbug.

And stuff.

But I will NOT let that get me down! haha!
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
Date:December 11th, 2006 12:21 am (UTC)
Heh. Then again, this is the first Christmas I've felt well enough to want to do anything too, so that might be part of it. :-)

Heck, your family and *true* friends probably wouldn't mind not getting a card at all, although they might worry about YOU since you usually send 'em out. With me, people would be worried if I did send out Christmas cards. Hehe!

[User Picture]
Date:December 11th, 2006 03:17 am (UTC)
But, like, I'm definitely still getting a hand made card, right?

[User Picture]
Date:December 11th, 2006 02:33 am (UTC)
I don't do cards, but I do love to put up decorations and a tree in the livingroom. I don't care about the outside, too much work. Kind of selfish, since I DO like going to look at other people's lights!

I like to give presents too, and I don't really care about getting stuff, I love the stuff I do get, but that's not the whole point for me. I love Christmas music, there are certain songs I have to hear every year or its just not complete. I love the movies. I've seen them a hundred times but I love to watch them again. Its just how I am.

I'm at a point where I'm trying to start our own traditions, just stuff me, TH and Harry do together as a family, that doesn't include all the grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins.
[User Picture]
Date:December 11th, 2006 03:18 am (UTC)
That's me too. The worst thing you can do to me on Christmas isn't not get me anything, it's hate what I give YOU! (Enemies, take note: hating my gifts is like Kryptonite for the MrsV.)

I don't do outside either -- too selfish. I just want the indoor stuff so's I can see it. :-)

[User Picture]
Date:December 11th, 2006 03:36 am (UTC)
You should see all the pretty pretty lights I have strung around the perimeter of my livingroom! Shiny!

and a pretty little tree in the entry. The only challenge has been keeping Harry from trying to pull the lights off!

I put up a lot more around the room last year but its still nice in here. they are a nice soft ambient light for when we're watching tv and such.
[User Picture]
Date:December 11th, 2006 03:52 am (UTC)
Well, we none of us grew up with Xmas so it's kind of like messing about on foreign territory for us ... we don't quite "get" it but we like the pretty trimmings!

Except now that there are kids, their parents (my brother & one of my sisters) are suddenly taking far more of an interest. Especially for my brother, this is new. My sister married a guy who'd had a more traditional holiday upbringing, so she's used to it now, but my brother married a woman from the church we were raised in, so she never had Xmas either. This is the first year they put up a tree ... and they're doing it for their girls ... trying to create a Winter Solstice tradition for them to remember.

So far I have had no luck in getting them to make wishlists, and I hate trying to figure out what to get them & the kids, so I'm pushing even harder to get the wishlists going. I think I'll prevail, becuz it's "For The Children." Hee.
[User Picture]
Date:December 11th, 2006 04:30 am (UTC)
Yeah. I know that for some of my friends (and my husband!), Christmas was not necessarily tied to happy childhood memories. My parents went through some bad times when I was a teenager, but childhood was pretty good, what I remember of it. The whole "A Christmas Story" sort of thing, only without the leg lamp, which ... DAMMIT! ... I was going to buy for Dad this year. Har!

Then some others of my friends grew up with different religions or NO religion at all, and didn't do Christmas or Christmasy stuff. I wonder how many of them decided to make a Solstice/Christmas/Hannukah/etc tradition for their children when they had them?

Yes, indeedy -- I can get a LOT more info out of my brother when I ask him what Taylor wants for Xmas than what HE wants. Hahaha! This year, he (my brother) was looking at all the different stones I have for jewelry making and so forth and he got all excited because apparently Taylor loves rocks and stones. So I put together a little rock collection for him with some cool things like a little geode and chalcopyrite and aventurine, amethyst, snowflake obsidian, leopard skin jasper, tiger-eye, a quartz crystal with little crystals growing out of the side, and some others. W00T for instant nephew present!

The brother, however ... ~sigh~ No wish list so I got him stupid candies and cheap toys that we used to love when we were kids. Both he and I love things like that. :-)

Next year, I'm mailing a SASE with a wish list to everyone in the family, and I'll write a program to constantly phone them until they get it back to me. I swear, I'll DO IT!!!

Okay, maybe just to the male members of the family. The females in my family do a much better job of giving you options. :-)

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