We did some dashing through the snow tonight, dropping off wine and Christmas cards for friends and neighbors. The kids are tossing and turning in bed, and I am considering the Big Event next week. Christmas cards finally in the mail today, and everything!!
Jon and I have done little of our holiday preparations 'together', except the tree and the house decor. So, tonight was a great prelude for tomorrow night's wine-swilling-present-wrapping 'extravaganza.' We have one kid with the sniffles, one fighting a fever of 102, and some serious baking, cooking, and gingerbread-house construction still to come. Sounds like....quite the weekend, doesn't it?
Most people I've been speaking with have been trying extra hard to 'find' their Christmas Spirit this year. We saw the Nutcracker Ballet (absolutely Brilliant!), went to the Christmas concert at our church (it's a big ol' church. and the music was Sublime!!!) and set up the house. Seriously, it sounds laughably simple, but up until tonight when I was actually hugging and shaking hands with our friends, I have only had a, thin, thin sense of the holiday. Buying gifts for people Almost got me there. It usually only takes a peppermint mocha to hear my own chorus of 'Jingle Bells'. My kids excitement does help a bit, too. But between the snow drought we lived through up until a few weeks ago, and the angst we have all been trying to either work with or slough off, my spirit has really struggled, and I don't think I am alone.
Christmas can be an almost mystical event, for some. My father and his wife have more of a secular approach. My in-laws are enthusiastic and joyful when we get together Christmas eve. I've loved decorating the tree with both religious and whimsical ornaments, and I do some good toe-tapping to the 'Jackson Five' Christmas Album. I played the Celtic Woman Christmas album last night, and that has helped pull it 'together' a bit more. When the music inspires you toward more of a 'giving' heart, that seems to put me on track. Isn't that the whole point of St. Nicholas, after all?
Tomorrow, my mother-in-law, my daughter and I (and maybe I will get lucky and my mom will come with?) are going to a Christmas 'recreation' at Murphy's Landing. I am excited to see what the earlier settlers did to make the holiday special, on a limited means. Normally, my husband and I budget away and save throughout the year for Christmas. This year, caution and planning went....completely awry, so I am thinking that a solid lesson in 'pre-commercial Christmas' is timely indeed!!
It's so much more fun to be generous at Christmas. It's so much more fun to have lists and budgets prepared, and know what you can do to make someone smile, and have it wrapped and at hand by Christmas Eve. Frankly, that's a luxury few can afford - it takes, what, one car repair? One unforeseen medical bill? One freak natural occurance - that can burn through that holiday budget. And the best, tightest planning might not be enough. Does that - Should that - diminish Christmas?
I hope not. I hope that if life is handing people lemons, they have a killer recipe for lemonaid in their back pocket (or a handy bottle of tequila and some salt!!). I hope that families facing horrible financial luck, or repeated strikeouts in the job market can still see Christmas. For family facing grief and loss, I hope they can face it hand in hand, and don't have to cope with it alone. Christmas 'promise' can feel like a burden, if it's the wrong promise.
But if we carry the message of hope, of redemption, Christmas can bring strength. My first Christmas without my brother is something....I can't even remember. I don't know how I spent it, but I doubt I would have made it without friends and family. Looking back, that's the greatest gift I could have been given at the time. It didn't make the pain worthwhile, but it made it easier to carry. Looking at my life now, with the terrible emptiness I fought against, my sense of blessing, my sense of hope, has more ground.
I wish that for everyone.
My ice candles (a Martha Stewart project, if you must know) made it, more or less. I'll try to post one 'good' picture of their light, before the big day. And if you wander by, I hope their light brings a small spark to you, of what the holiday can be about. And.....if the picture totally sucks, and they look, erm, um.....cheesy, may you have a huge laugh at my expense. :-)