Saturday, December 15, 2007

Holiday Survival Reminders

When I was a child, Christmas seemed magical. Even though things were tight for my family financially, I always enjoyed the holidays and felt it was a magical time. That's probably because my mother and grandparents were busy getting everything ready to go and running around like heck to do everything, and me in my innocence, just sat around enjoying it all unperturbed.

As an adult, in our own household, we celebrate Hannukah, but we also celebrate Christmas with my family. Things get pretty hectic. Not only do we have both holidays to celebrate, but also my daughter's BD, my Grandma Ferne's birthday, and oh yeah, my husband's birthday, all within the last couple of weeks of December. So things can be pretty nutty busy for our family - and we're probably not unique in that over-the-top busy-ness at this time of year.

What I've learned in terms of holiday coping is that if I lower my expectations on everything, be it gifts, activities, cards, you name it, I create a "comfort zone" that actually enhances my enjoyment of the holidays and my loved ones. I found that less is really better when it comes to all holidays and birthdays!

The only gifts I actually buy these days is a gift for my daughter, mother,and grandmother. Sometimes, Bob and I buy one another a gift, but often not. This year, we bought a hard drive for our computer because it was something we both needed and wanted, but often we just buy one another random gifts throughout the year when we see something special that we'd really enjoy. And the best gifts of all are the odd gifts - like when I buy him chocolate covered cherries or a bottle of Baileys. He sometimes buys me a special book, pair of earrings or something I've been admiring for a while. We don't buy gifts out of feelings of obligation, guilt, or "tit for tat" gift exchanges.

Sometimes I send holiday cards. Often with the price of postage these days, I don't except for a few special far-away friends.

I don't make hand-knitted gifts, especially if it is done in a rush out of a feeling of obligation. One year, when Mom and I first started knitting, we made a whole bunch of scarves for friends, relatives and coworkers. We started in June, and by December, we had many goodies to give away. It was fun.

Several years, we've made Christmas hard candy. We've been doing that since I was little, and it's a special fun three generation treat - my grandmother, my Mom and myself. This year, if I have time, I'd like to do it again and share it with Emily. We can all get in on the act of boiling that candy, trying to pour it on onto a powdered sugar tray and cut that hot candy without burning our hands to a crisp. It's a blast. Plus, it scents the house up with the smell of spearmint, cinammon, wintergreen and raspberry.

Most of all, each year, I engage in a series of Christmas rituals that are still special to me even though I'm not a practicing Christian. For instance, watching the Charlie Brown Christmas movie, listening to the accompanying music on DVD. Then there's my "must do" tradition of reading Truman Capotes, "Christmas Memory" short story. If you click on the link, you can read the story online. Capote has always been one of my favorite authors and that bittersweet story brings me to happy tears every year.

So if I don't see you in person, just know that I'm sending warm holiday wishes to you and yours.

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