The “perfect” Christmas 

Hi Everyone! Hope you are warm and safe and dry. If I have any readers in Alaska, I hope you are safe and suffered minimal damage up there.  This was another week where on Monday I thought to myself, ” I will finish my blog post tomorrow”, which somehow turned into Saturday!  

I have finished the Christmas decorating and been subjected to hours of non-stop Christmas music by Miss L.  As always happens right before or just after Thanksgiving, I began to feel my inner Grinch seep out. This time I decided to stop and get to the bottom of this yearly phenomenon and to POSSIBLY exorcise it once and for all. If you are lucky you won’t have to read about it here next year and maybe I can redeem myself to my kids and future grandkids. Put your seat belts on because I’m down to about 10% of my original filter and have reached the Age of Honesty. This may turn into a series before the season is over.

First, I think somewhere in my lineage there is either Scandinavian or Shaker ancestry. Our modern Christmas is overwhelming to me. Too much stuff, too many lights, people, food, traffic, etc.  I’m pretty sure I can trace that back as far as my teenage years and at heart I am a minimalist that can’t seem to shake (but by George I’m trying) literal and figurative baggage. My idea of decorations for Christmas is a green tree with white lights and white ornaments, white candles on the mantle and some greenery. Boom. Done. Simple. Elegant.  When we get the new house finished  I will probably add a Moravian star on the porch. I have been told more than once that I don’t get the Spirit of Christmas. If it involves the above excess, then I don’t want it. The only Spirit of Christmas I have any desire for is the company of friends and family and the candlelight midnight service at church. 


Second, the expectations of what Christmas “should” be have been blown so out of proportion that there is no wonder people are depressed during the holidays. My parents tell of getting AN ORANGE as their treat for Christmas. My guess is that they savored every bite of that orange. What do we really savor during the frenzy of shopping, cooking, parties, ripping open piles of gifts? How the heck are we supposed to Martha Stewart our way through the holidays with a spotless house, hundreds of cards mailed, perfect hair, gourmet home cooked goodies and angelic (though sugared up) children? It’s a myth people. Concocted by marketers who each year are expected to out tear jerk last year’s Christmas advertising. I spent my whole career in advertising, marketing and retail. That is where Grinches are born! 

Gifts. In my perfect Christmas there would be no gift giving. The financial burden and stress that this causes so many people every year is the antithesis of what Christmas should be about. Gifts should be given spontaneously during the year and only to show thoughtfulness and true affection or appreciation. I can tell you that in my years as a young parent and later as a single parent, the cost of trying to gift everyone at one time AND make them HAPPY was nothing short of a horrendous burden. I worked two jobs for years just to pay the bills and tried to squirrel away money all year long just to try to have enough to buy gifts for my kids that would come close to what their friends would get so they would not feel different THEN prayed my car didn’t break down or an appliance quit on me and I would have to spend the Christmas money. 

Pay attention to the people in your circle. Is there someone who gets sick or has a conflict with that party every year where a $25 gift AND food is expected to be brought? Do they “conveniently” miss the meeting where everyone is expected to pitch in for the bosses’ gift? Do they “forget” that they needed to bring items for underprivileged children? Guess what. They are struggling to keep THEIR kids’ names off that Christmas tree! People, give up the gift and money expectations. Do what you can and leave everyone else to do what they can…AND DONT GOSSIP ABOUT THEM. They are losing precious sleep wondering how they are going to DO Christmas AND pay the freakin’ power bill. If you can’t understand why someone isn’t out fighting Black Friday crowds or throwing lots of Christmas Spirit money in every charity  pot that gets passed around, then appreciate how blessed you are not to be counting every quarter and give some grace to those who have to. When I say “grace” I don’t mean a handout. I mean understanding. Understanding that people deal with many different challenges during the Christmas season. Depression and grief don’t leave much room for joyous shopping or giving. Caregiving can suck the lifeblood out of others. Single parents deal with financial burdens, social stigmas and loneliness during the holidays. The Christmas Spirit should be giving understanding, support and non-judgement instead of expecting Starbucks cards, extravagant gifts and constant holiday enthusiasm. 

I practice the Christian faith, the teachings of Jesus Christ, who didn’t do much of anything that was a societal norm. He was born in a dirty barn. The only ones who brought him gifts were three wealthy men. The shepherds and the Angels simply worshipped a miraculous birth and savored the moment. That was the perfect Christmas. 

Wishing you a week of miracles. 

Advertisements

We are not unique…

Paris

It happened again.  A brutal attack on innocent people.   Actually it has happened several times in just the past couple of weeks.  I keep trying to find a way to emotionally respond to these horrific events without subsuming to fear.  That is exactly what THEY want.

This time I was settled in with my three dearest friends from college in a mountain cabin for our semi-annual escape.  If only we could escape completely.  Without wi-fi, our computers or cable we came close, but those blasted smart phones let the world invade with the news.

To be honest, we acknowledged it happened, but we didn’t discuss it.  I’m sure in their hearts, like mine, there was sadness and anger, but we needed to focus on each other right then.  One of my friends had not been with us for about 12 years.  We needed to live in that moment together.

I would love to hear how other people handle these events.  My reaction is often to “circle the wagons” (if you happen to not know U.S. history that term comes from the wagon trains going West making a circle to contain the women, children, livestock, etc. and be in a defensible position against attack).  I want to gather those close to me and know that they are ok.  Evidently I am not the only one.  In the past year I have noticed that people who have been important to me over the years, but for whatever reasons, have drifted away are suddenly showing back up.  I have been looking for a couple of people that I lost touch with over the years as well.

The sense of having no control may be the most maddening part of this modern life.  Maybe that is too selfish.  When I put it in perspective, somewhere on this earth during every age in time, people have felt this way.  This is not new.  Barbarians have invaded,  armies have attacked, religions have killed in the name of God or gods over all the centuries.  This is our time and we must deal just like they had to.

Someone should have written a self-help, how-to book long ago.

I just wrote that sentence then had a “duh” moment.   For those of us who are of the Jewish or Christian faith, we do have a self-help, how-to book.  The Old Testament  or Torah is full of battles, invasions and faith in brutal times.  The New Testament has 365 “do not fear” passages.  I will admit that is easier said than done.  It does underscore the fact that fighting fear is a daily battle sometimes and has been for a very long time.

For now I will continue to cherish and love those around me, concentrate on the work that needs to be done, be thankful for the beauty of this earth, the everyday blessings and pray for safety, peace and comfort for those directly affected by the horrors of this world and the rest of us as well.

Next week is Thanksgiving here.  I doubt there will be an actual post written, but I wish you a wonderful week.  May it be peaceful and full of love and laughter.  Pie.  May you enjoy lots of pie as well!

 

Photo: <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;