It’s amazing how having a meltdown this early in December clears away stuff. For example, all of the “have-tos” that I drag around with me for the holidays: the magical, quintessentially decorated Christmas tree that has to be a balsam and freshly cut so that it fills the room with its fragrance. This is no mean feat because trees are cut and shipped down here from Canada weeks before Thanksgiving even–and finding a balsam tree that is still alive enough to grace us with its fragrance is not an easy thing.
Then, there is the multitude of ornaments that I have collected and culled after forty-some years of Christmas tree-decorating. Antique mercury and glass ornaments, tissue paper animals, birds cut out of paper, bead garlands, glistening snowflakes from Germany when I travelled there on business years ago. A choice of different angels for the top. Or a felted red cardinal. Maybe these can be reduced to a half or a quarter.
Then, there’s the present-giving. I have been criticized for years by one person for giving too much at Christmas: “Just sit back and let her do it,” was the admonition, if memory serves me. As though receiving things that I have gathered is a burden for people. So, that’s something to reconsider, don’t you think?
Then, there’s the food. It turns out that I have not really bought into the idea that everyone should have a say-so in what the menu is going to be over the holidays. To me, it’s not a “team decision,” since it’s not really a “team effort,” is it to shop for it, prepare it and serve it? This yearning to create a true Christmas meal has been further enhanced by my correspondence with an old friend who lives in London. She has ordered two pheasants for their Christmas dinner. And I have been sending her recipes from Roald Dahl’s wonderful book, “Memories from Gipsy House,” like “Oeufs en gelee” and reading recipes for partridges stuffed with juniper, herbs and fresh bread. It’s a sharp contrast to the current ethos of “just making something quick and simple,” isn’t it? I’m a pretty good cook and part of the fun of Christmas is making really wonderful food for our meals.
Nor, for that matter, have I ever bought into the concept of exchanging “lists” of things that people want. If someone wants something on their list, then why don’t they just buy it for themselves anyway? What is Christmas anyhow, if you just order something at LL Bean or Amazon.com that somebody else wanted but didn’t want to spend the money? Then you wrap up the gift that somebody already asked for and they open it on Christmas day? Yippee? What happened to the days of Guy de Maupassant and the thoughtfulness that’s described in his short story, “The Gift”? although you wouldn’t want to be ships passing in the night either about gift-giving.
So that’s about it:
a real tree
Oh, and being present. That’s a big one. Not wandering off willy nilly. Really helping out to clean things up and to wash the dishes rather than making a stab at it and letting others do all the tidying up. Not just going through the motions. Being joyful and thankful together.
Being present. That’s better than giving or receiving presents, don’t you think?
Well, thanks for listening to me today.
I’ll figure it out. Because I always do.