Musings & Threads. Holiday Traditions.
Christmas is an intoxicating holiday because it appeals to all of our senses.
We are dazzled by the bright lights, evergreen decorations and colorful ornaments sprinkled on Christmas trees, wreaths, boughs and tabletops. Brightly wrapped, carefully selected presents remind us that we are loved. No longer limited to red and green, Christmas brings a myriad of bright colors to the winter’s gray landscape.
Our other senses are stimulated, our sense of smell by the mingling aromas of baking, evergreens and assorted spices. Funny colored Christmas sweaters, scarves and hats and cackling fires surround us with warmth. In any store or home we can hear Christmas carols, bells, holiday music and sometimes carolers. Parties offer intoxication and laughter as a relief from our daily lives. And, of course, delicious Christmas sweets and traditional meals are recreated to satisfy any appetite and to celebrate our memories of holidays past.
It is my favorite holiday.
Every year my nostalgic (which really means edited) memories of happy times are recreated. I cherish memories of how our home was filled sweet aromas, warm fires, celebrating the season of happiness.
When I married my Jewish husband, we added his traditions, Hanukkah. Our daughter was born on December 21st, so we had another reason to celebrate …and we went crazy. We realized that we had gone too far when one day our 3-year-old daughter woke up and just asked, do I get a present today?
So we scaled back Hanukkah, instead of a nightly present, she got a present on the first night and we lit the Menorah and said the blessing on the other nights. Hanukkah, I learned, is a much more civilized holiday, children love lighting the candles and giving children a single present each night allows them to enjoy it and anticipate the next one.
My husband was intrigued by Christmas, it was something that he had only imagined. Because he grew up in the 50s, he had to sing Christmas carols at the public schools, but other than that, his face was pressed against the glass at Christmas. Christmas day had been his loneliest day of the year. Everything was closed, there was nothing good on TV.
Bring in a Christmas fanatic. He was a good sport about it, he put up the Christmas lights (we used to joke about the Jew having the best Christmas lights). While he did it for me, I think that he secretly enjoyed it. He was perplexed by the constant activity, I baked and baked and decorated and we entertained and built our own traditions. But mostly he was bewildered (or appalled) by Christmas day, watching a child tear through so many presents looked like chaos.
Soon he learned about the other Christmas traditions. Using ladders under hazardous conditions to put up Christmas lights. The annual fight over getting the Christmas tree straight. The extra pounds that we needed to lose in January. The Christmas day meltdown, as children were overwhelmed by a combination of lack of sleep and too many presents. The wailing about the first broken toy. (Only having one child, we missed the fight about which child got the most presents.) And, because there wasn’t enough chaos, we created a new tradition, clean up, put everything away by 1 p.m. and rush, rush, rush to drive 4 hours (or fly to a warm destination) to visit family.
I wish you the very best in celebrating yours.