Monday, December 04, 2006

'Tis the Season

Ahhhh, yes . . . the holidays in full swing. I love the holiday season. I could care less about Christmas itself, other than the delight and true mystery it brings to children - but that, too can be classified as part of the season, and not Christmas itself.
To me, Christmas often seems like a lot of excess. There is so much shopping for things that really aren't needed, so much wrapping and garbage from the wrapping, so much food, and so much food that doesn't get eaten. It's easy to get caught up in the glitz and glam of it all - it seems almost expected. People want your Christmas list and you ask it of others. Heaven forbid you know the person well enough that you actually spend time considering the person and what they actually might like or want or need. Instead of simply eating, so much time and energy is spent on entertaining foods - fancy things you only eat once a year, food as decorations. And I think for me, Christmas Day itself represents the end to a special time of year, and things have to go back to the way they were. Sometimes that's sad.
I don't mean to be such a scrooge. I think it's hard for me: I love the season for other things that it stands for, and for the tradition, but at the same time, so much of that extra stuff goes against my better judgements and my morals.
I love the magic of the Christmas season, and amidst all the chaos, I hope that's what we, as parents, convey the most to our children. I love the spirit of giving - not for the junk because you want to give SOMEthing, but for the thought and time and energy that goes into that one special gift that you are so excited to give. I love the lights at Christmas time - on the trees, on the houses, in the city, all the candles, the miniature Christmas villages . . . they all seem to represent a unified beauty, a symbol of hope, and a magical time in the air. I love Santa Claus for all that he represents. My husband described it well to our 11-yr-old yesterday: it's something that everyone chooses for themselves whether or not to believe in, and what it represents for them. He said to think of it as a spirit like a god or a buddha and what it means in your own life. I'll always believe in Santa Claus, because to me it represents magic and a reminder of things in our world so mystical that we'll never fully understand. I love the snow this time of year because it's peaceful and quiet and it's beauty is an awesome thing to behold.
Some parts of the holidays, I take part in because of tradition. I feel like that's hypocritical. I guess, although they might not follow my everyday structure of living, and frustrate me for that reason, they might make others happy - and that, I need to remember, is giving something that others enjoy and might define their holiday season, just as I try to define what mine is.
So what does Ginger Breadman do during the holidays? I'm going to attempt to do what makes me happy, and what makes my family happy. Somewhere in there is a compromise.
The season always kicks off with Thanksgiving weekend, because it's always also a weekend of our oldest child's birthday, our wedding anniversary, and the Seattle Marathon. That weekend we also cut down our Christmas Tree at a tree farm out in the country - complete with roaming farm animals, wagons to pull the kids and the tree through the property, and honey from the bees. And that weekend we went to see the fancy gingerbread houses, and the tree lighting. Things that symbolize the holidays. This last weekend we went to visit out-of-town relatives and friends and see their special lighted Christmas displays they're so proud of, and visit Santa Claus.
So what's left? The house is decorated, the village is set out, the lights are up, holiday music is playing . . .
~we'll make almond roca for gifts - a coveted family recipe, and a passed-down tradition
~we'll make a gingerbread house the children and their cousins will eat Christmas eve - it's a tradition I've done since I was a little girl, but now as an adult who appreciates the art form, it's hard to see the waste of leftovers, but something the children look so forward to
~we'll go see the lighted Christmas ships and hear the caroling, and sip hot drinks with the people on the beach by the bonfire - it's been a tradition since we were married
~we'll go to 2 holiday road races and a street scramble
~we'll go see the eagles nesting on the river - a winter time favorite
~I'll have holiday tea time with the women in my family - a tradition as long as I've been an adult
~we'll take a drive and walk to see the holiday light displays
~we'll do something special for my husband's birthday on the 22nd, so it doesn't get lost in the holiday shuffle
~we'll make truffles and bake cookies because it rocks the world of my children
Somewhere in all that, we'll try to pretend there is peace on earth . . . the children will go to school, my husband will go to work, we'll go running and to the gym, we'll fit in ballet and basketball and chess club, we'll cook dinner, read stories . . . and come Christmas day, I'll actually be exhausted and looking forward to a break from it. And hopefully I'll be able to reflect on the joys of it all, and have new memories to reflect on throughout the next year.


Joe said...

> To me, Christmas often seems like
> a lot of excess. There is so
> much shopping for things that
> really aren't needed, so much
> wrapping and garbage from the
> wrapping, so much food, and
> so much food that doesn't
> get eaten.

I totally agree. I wish people didn't feel obligated to give presents. I don't expect a present. I don't even really need anything. All I want for Christmas is a nice meal and some quiet time with family. You are NOT a scrooge for saying those things.

JustRun said...

Doesn't sound like a Scrooge to me. :)

Danielle said...

You are definitely not a scrooge for thinking of the excess. You seem to have down the important things. Family time and traditions. The rest gets away from the meaning of Christmas, which is about family and a rebirth of hope and joy and the symbols of the new year. And there is nothing wrong with that. It'd be nice if it wasn't ruined by retail and all the "sales" and crowds...I'm not big on the holiday itself anymore, but I love the lights and decorating and if it's not in excess, even a bit of snow can be pretty.

Sarah said...

I think we have a similar view of "the season." I can do without the excess too. But I love this time of year for the tradition and the memories it brings. And hopefully I can pass on some of those same feelings to my son.

Anne said...

You seem to be steeped in a lot of traditions, which is really nice. My only mandate is that we have the tackiest holiday tree we can create. It's a lot of fun seeing just how crass we can be with bubble lights, neon bulbs and all the handmade kids' ornaments collected over the years.

I think you feel like most adults about the gift-giving.

Josh said...

So much to do! But all good things. Perhaps to balance the excess you could take the kids to a holiday soup kitchen or habitat for humanity to volunteer. Might be a nice, new, tradition to start and one that would help keep balance and remember the reason for the season.

Bob said...

I love this post, all so very true. I was struck talking with my 6 year old the other day. The school has them collecting money for the handicaped children at school because they need to build ramps for better access. Last night her brownie troop went to purchase gifts for underprivleged kids.
And the great thing is she gets it all and it all means something to her in her 6 year old way to do these things.
I was very proud of her. :)

D said...

What a nice post. This year I am making changes and putting more thoughts (and hopefully less money and stress) into my gifts. It is sad that it comes down to presents at Christmas time instead of the important things like being with family and the true meaning of Christmas.

stephruns said...

making a ginger bread house? I would love that! I have a thing for gingerbread in general and asked my husband to please bring me an original gingerbread heart from Germany. Do you know those?

Angie said...

i love how you write about this holiday. i don't celebrate christmas for it's excess or religious overtones, but for the cultural traditions. this year, ash and i will be creating new rituals, new traditions...

Running Rabbit said...

Very nice post...puts things into perspective that's for sure.