Something just doesn't seem right when one holiday, even if it is my favorite one, takes up a whole two months! Do the math, one sixth of the year! I mean, my life is busy enough without holidays, and then this one comes crashing in on our existence like a comet from outer space. So much for the cute little star of Bethlehem, this thing has gotten huge and leaves a crater in its wake!! I'm writing this looking at the most perfect Christmas tree we have ever had (a far shot better than the ones we crafted out of two trees in PNG with saws and drills), an obligatory manger in a decorated bay window and christmas cards on the mantel. I can boast of a tasty turkey with all the mandatory side dishes; a few, not all, of the sweets I planned to bake; homemade Christmas presents; a dining room that could be right out of a swedish Home & Garden; even funky new handmade decorations in front of our house (well, they would look good if they were in front of any other house); and a merry time was had by all (including my parents who spent Christmas with us for the first time in 15 years!). But I'm exhausted! and I am asking myself, where did those two months go?
I only have myself to blame (and the Home & Garden). I don't know why all my artistic inspiration and zealousness seems to be concentrated on Christmas, but that original hand size snow ball has quickly rolled up into a large, unmanageable snow boulder of ideals, promises, expectations, new craft and deco ideas, obligations, hopes and demands. Inevitably all of those things add up to more than the amount of time usually left over to honor any holiday sanely. The temptation, then, is to start earlier and be more organized (how many years have I been vowing to do that?), but we wouldn't want to take that approach with our bank accounts. If we have used up the money alloted for one thing, we wouldn't want to just start using the money alloted for food or rent to cover the excess. I think my Grandmother must have spent at least ten months out of the year on Christmas, and with ten children and 28 grandchildren, no one can fault her for it. But I don't come close to having that kind of excuse for my over indulgence. Two months for Christmas is too much. Something's gotta give!
The problem is that I feel strapped to a horse that will never tire (to quote Sting).
I'm a Christmas junkie.
I've bought into the storybook version of Christmas lock, stock and barrel, and I try to recreate it every year. It captures my imagination like no other holiday, maybe because it involves many of my favorite things: paper, candles, ivy, wreaths, pretty things, yummy smells, chocolate, and “brown paper packages tied up with string.” Maybe it is an addiction to Anticipation itself, a feeling of something better is yet to come, the tension that builds and presses against the rib cages until you feel that your whole chest cavity will burst. Maybe it is some childhood deficiency (what in my life isn’t motivated by my childhood deficiency?), zeroing in on this particular season to gorge itself on the fancy and illusion that all will be well if i am just able to bake enough cookies to feed the 100+ kids and parents divided among my three children’s classes and sport clubs, and still have enough left over for Christmas day, the relatives, the neighbors and new years eve; write cards to every significant individual that has come and gone in my biography; get the right Christmas tree (very high on my priorities); don’t disappoint anyone at the gift opening ceremony; take the turkey out of the oven on time and make a good gravy. This year i decided to test my bionic powers* and “supervised” the kids, who made more than several sophisticated Christmas presents for their Grandparents and aunts. I had myself going there for a while, but I am now convinced that I have not even one bionic part in me!(my kids, on the other hand, are all machine!)
I bet this is exhausting just reading about all this! I’m sorry to put you through it, but I wanted to go public with my addiction. It’s the best thing for us junkies to do, so that others can steer clear of any kind of co-dependency behavior. I’ve already begun forming a rehabilitation strategy for next year:
finish the christmas poem i started a few years ago, which explores the dilemma of Mary’s pregnancy from 3 different angles.
celebrate advent as a family (we totally missed it this year) once a week (every night, as we have done some years is quite ambitious for someone just climbing onto the wagon), by naming and informing ourselves about one particular form of darkness (injustice, suffering) in our world each week.
Ask ourselves: what does, “I bring tidings of peace on earth and good will toward man!” mean to the people in those respective “dark” situations?
Ask ourselves if there is anyone in our lives toward whom we need to take a creative first step of reconciliation
(to be prepared well in advance)Find out if there is anyone, whose “world” we, as a family, can enter incarnationally to offer comfort, compassion and companionship.
These are just a few rough ideas I’ve had so far. Doing this well might cut into my baking time, squeeze out a few of my shopping trips, and limit the number of new decorations i make next Christmas, and even then I’m not sure I’ll fit it all into one month. Come to think of it, it might just take me all year to prepare for Christmas this way.
Incase I fall off the wagon, you know your part: don’t eat my cookies, send back any Christmas cards I might have sent (unless there is a poem about Mary and her obnoxious neighbors in it) and don’t remark about how delightfully seasonal my house looks. The tree is still a “non- negotiable.”
* i know that this reference dates me as being just shy of prehistoric, but the Bionic Woman/Man shows were far better than Superman/woman, and I am not ashamed to admit it!