Thursday, December 17, 2009

My Favorite Holiday Traditions

I really love the holidays. It's weird because I am not christian and therefore don't "believe," but I do respect tradition and family and memories of holidays past. I also see my Protestant upbringing as part of my cultural heritage and the stories told through that religious tradition as the mythical stories I find most culturally familiar. So, it does not bother me to hear songs and messages about Jesus and the Bible; I think about them the same way I would think about Greek or Native American myths except that these are more familiar and somehow comforting.

In fact, as much as I did not enjoy church services most of the year, I really loved them on Christmas eve when the lights were low and we held candles and sang songs. It felt peaceful, the one time each year that we all just got quiet and spoke of peace and love. To me, that is what the holiday season is about.

I love the songs of Christmas because I love music, and I especially love singing. I do it secretly and only at home but when my voice meshes perfectly with a song and I know all of the words I feel so peaceful and joyful. In my household growing up both my parents loved music. My father, as a collector of music, always had the right song for any occasion and kept the music constantly playing in the house. My mother is a singer, always singing and encouraging all of us to join in and participate in the music. They probably have hundreds of Christmas albums, some better than others. Last year it was Donny Osmond, which I have to say I could live without. In my house I only have about 4 albums but I keep them playing on my ipod daily throughout December. I especially like to play them while cooking dinner and singing along. Mark does sometimes join in because, why not? We like to sing songs about our cat or with our cat's name in them so they can get pretty silly. We like to in invent the best new lyrics and crack each other up. We are playing the Christmas edition of that game now.

I love really bad Lifetime or Oxygen holiday movies. I watch them on the weekends and get excited to see the new ones or old ones I missed somehow. I can waste hours on this, but they help to put me in the mood and pass the time while I make crafts or write holiday cards. I am also encouraged to see that some of my old TV friends are finding new work, even if it is once a year. This is a tradition Mark especially hates. But he already thinks I have bad taste in TV.

I love baking for the holidays. I sometimes run out of time so I don't do it every year, but there is something about homemade holiday treats as gifts or to share with co-workers and friends. It reminds me of my Grandma's house and the endless variety of cookies she would have on hand. This year I made my grandmother's Snowball cookies, my mother's Chocolate Drop cookies, my aunt's Almond Rocca and my newest recipe, pumpkin cookies with white chocolate chips. Mark also requested Snicker doodles, which are not technically holiday cookies but whatevs.

I love holiday cards. I love choosing them and spend a lot of time on it. I choose several different styles each year and sit down to pick the perfect card for each family on my list. Bet you didn't know I put such thought into it? I think it's fun. I get this from my mom who would go out the day after Christmas to buy holiday cards half-off and she would buy A TON. We had a special cabinet at home that was bursting with boxes of holiday cards, way more than she needed in any given year. I wonder if she is still slogging through her back-stash? She also writes a letter every year. Letters are controversial, which surprised me when I discovered it as an adult. I thought it was just what you do. Sitting down to reflect on your year and how it changed you or didn't or what you learned about life and yourself. Even if you don't send the letter, I recommend you write one as a way to reflect on each year and live a little more thoughtfully. Or you could just brag. I will read anything.

I love buying presents, because I love shopping, and researching and researching shopping. I spend several weeks looking at all of my options and thinking about the person and what they would like. I narrow it down; I first decide what gifts I will make and what I will buy and have to choose carefully in order to have time to make everything. This year I did not and had to purchase a last minute gift which I hate because there is no time for researching. Sometimes I choose poorly and after the holidays I wake from my stupor and think What was I THINKING? but will probably keep making those mistakes in different ways for different people each year. Sorry in advance.

To me, the best parts of Christmas are the weeks leading up to it with the planning and projects and dreaming. So, I wish you much Peace and Joy this holiday season, whatever you celebrate, whatever your cultural or religious (or both) traditions. They all connect us to those we love and remind us to live in peace and respect for all of the parts of this season that each of us enjoy most.


brooke said...

I love the Christmas letters that people put in cards and was also surprised to discover that they are somehow controversial! My mom still has all the Christmas letters my grandma Vance wrote and they are so darling (if a little cheesy--like when she gushes about what a wonderful child my mother was). The cards with letters in them are the very best--even the totally gaggy braggy ones.

Anonymous said...

Dad and I so enjoyed your entry about the holidays. Thanks. This year I wrote a letter and saved it but didn't send as this year was pretty ordinary. But, you are so right that it is a good way to remember as you re-read them. I love the image of you both singing and just generally being silly! Love and HO! HO! HO! Mom

Anonymous said...

OMG, I LOVE your almond roca. I need to learn how to make it myself.