TIS THE SEASON

Getting Seasonal – The holiday season: can’t get enough of it, or can’t wait for it all to be over already? Has your attitude toward the end-of-year holidays changed over the years?

Christmas bouquet

My feelings about the season have evolved and devolved a lot over the decades. I came late to Christmas. Had to marry into it. Being Jewish left me with a permanent sense of Christmas-deprivation. I felt left out of the annual orgy of good cheer, caroling, gift-exchanges, and general consumerism that is An American Christmas. I couldn’t entirely miss it. I sang in the chorus and the glee club from elementary school onward and am one of the last people who can sing “Adeste Fidelis” all the way through in Latin. Not to mention the contralto part of Hallelujah chorus.

But it wasn’t really my holiday. I could enjoy it tangentially, the way a guest can enjoy someone else’s family reunion. Even if everyone is very nice about it, you still know it’s not your party.

When I married my first husband, I discovered his family had no religion. They were sure they’d once been some form of Christian, but no one knew what. No church (ever) except for the occasional wedding or funeral. Neither my husband or his sister had attended Sunday School. I doubt either of them were baptized.

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But, they celebrated Christmas with verve and passion. No creches with wise men or baby Jesus. No religious symbolism at all — but there were stars and reindeer and glittering glass decorations from Austria. The tree stood a solid 10 feet tall, so big and heavily laden, Jeff’s dad had to wire it to a wall to keep it from toppling over.

Then there was the eggnog. So alcoholic, I’m surprised its crystal bowl didn’t dissolve under the chemical assault. Accompanied by a huge array of Christmas cookies, it was sufficient to leave you hung over right through the glad New Year.

Oh, I almost forgot the wrapping. Jeff’s sister could wrap a chair (she did, really) so it looked like a Rudolph. Everything was perfect. Beyond perfect. Amazing!

Jeff’s dad died in 1968, when I was still pregnant with Owen. Jeff died in 1993. Grandma Kraus passed last year, just before her 104th birth day. Garry’s parents passed as did associated aunts, uncles and cousins. My family is almost entirely gone. With their loss, Christmas faded.

It hasn’t gone away completely, though. We decorate … but less. We hang lights, have a tree. This year, we have mini-trees which will be planted, if I can keep them alive till spring. A challenge.

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Christmas was always kid-centric and our last “kid” is 18 this year. This year, Owen asked if we really need a tree? I gave it serious thought, evoking the “little tree” compromise. I’m pleased. It’s enough Christmas, but not so much the work overwhelms the fun.

In a way, the holidays have looped back on themselves. I feel like I did all those years ago … that really, it’s not my holiday. Yet I love the season. Lights, gifts, and (mostly) happy people wishing each other good tidings. It’s not a Cecil B. DeMille production, but it isn’t nothing, either. It’s pretty, and bright. And friendly, and still leads to deficit spending.

And most important, we still say “I love you” at least twice as often to twice as many people as we do at any other time of the year. I think that’s the point of it.



Categories: celebration, Christmas, Daily Prompt, Holidays, Personal, Seasons

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38 replies

  1. “And most important, we still say “I love you” at least twice as often to twice as many people as we do at any other time of the year. I think that’s the point of it.”
    Yes to that!

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  2. Christmas used to be my favorite season as my Dad had a large family, aunts and uncles, cousins and we always gathered at my Grandmother’s house Christmas Eve in town….big dinner and since the family was so large we drew names on Thanksgiving (yes, we also got together at Thanksgiving) and after dinner and the dishes were done, we exchanged gifts…after my Grandmother passed away when I was 6, her eldest daughter, my Aunt Millie took over Christmas Eve dinner having us all gather for our family tradition at her home in town.

    As we cousins grew up and married, moved away to begin our lives, the aunts and uncles began to travel to their kids for the holidays. In the 1980’s we began to do the dinner here at home and it was just us and my parents every year, and sometimes Bill’s sister and husband joined us. We had many good years of new family memories together but after loosing my parents, Bill lost his Dad….being an only child now our holidays are just we two. I have struggled with it the last years but finally this year my heart is more at peace…sort of. I do treasure all the old time family memories and I miss those who have passed away. I have one aunt left, that lives here, and I do see her some….but Thanksgiving and Christmas is just us now.

    I don’t decorate as much and I used to love decorating the entire house, baking all kinds of goodies to share with neighbors and sending out tons of cards….now it is much more scaled back…and in many ways so much easier. I still cook the big meal for us and we enjoy the day with each other, napping, reading, and a few Christmas movies. I will miss Minnie, my kitty, this year as she loved Christmas morning…loved getting new toys from Santa Claws:)

    We are about to enter a new part of our life and it is a big? When did we age past 40? What happened to the time and life seems so strange now…time is passing so quickly. You have blogged about this too as when it hits you it is a BIG A-HA moment! We still feel 35 to 40 in our mind but our bodies complain a bit…so I am yet trying to figure out how and what and where….I am choosing to believe the future years will hold many good memories and good times….and that life will be good….but at times it is a bit scary!

    I do think that Christmas fits in with aging as my aunts and uncles are gone, my folks are gone and we are now the older ones….totally weird! We are now charting new territory! Merry Christmas Marilyn and Gary! Praying 2015 will hold good health and good times!

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    • It’s not a single “aha” moment for me — or really — us. It’s a series of them. The first, when Thanksgiving became mine and my mother was happy to let me do the cooking and decorating. I was in my 20s then, with a young kid and a full-time job and it was obvious that the pendulum was swinging in my direction. Then, when I was in Israel, trying to coordinate being there or having them with me at important time — Passover one year, the year she announced she was dying, which is probably why she had come.

      By the time I got back from Israel in 1987, my mother was gone, as were all my uncles and more than half my aunts and older cousins. Garry’s parents hung in there until the early 2000s, but the rest of his family’s older generation departed, one at a time. Mostly quite old. My first husband passed early, in 1993, his father having predeceased him years before, but his mother outlived her generation. She had long since stopped traveling or receiving visitors as she rounded the century mark.

      Slowly, holiday celebrations shrunk down. Kaity, our granddaughter, was young and that kept it going for another decade, but in the last few years, she has become quite the young lady. She still participates, but it’s not like having a starry-eyed child who believes in Santa.

      I don’t mind the reduced celebration. Retirement makes ALL holidays — and even vacations — less urgent. We don’t need a holiday to break up a long season of work, or a vacation to get us out of the hot, smoggy city. Vacation is now a chance to see people we otherwise won’t and places we’ve always wanted to go.

      The house looks pretty and Christmasy. Not as much as it would have looked a few years ago, but plenty. The poinsettia Garry brought home yesterday plunked itself in the middle of the coffee table in the living room and really finished “the look of Christmas.” I find that even on a “reduced schedule,” there is still more than enough to do.

      We don’t have the kind of energy and enthusiasm for the holidays we had when we were young. But we don’t have that kind of energy and enthusiasm for anything. Physically, my ability to party hearty has been permanently impaired … but hey, I’m alive! That’s the thing. We’ve lost a lot of people, but WE are alive. Kicking. Life is still good. So it’s our new task to accommodate to change and be grateful we have each other. This is our time to be together and content. Time is THE most precious thing of all!!

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  3. When I was at the store today (I have to make stuff for Christmas dinner in Colorado Springs) a mom was there with her little girl. The little girl was wonderful — about 3 — curious about everything and that included me. “Mom, there’s a LADY!” Every once in a while the mom would say, “I just love you.” And the little girl would say, “I just love YOU!” Since my route kept intersecting theirs I was able to see that the fact is they really did just LOVE each other. Mom was patient and amused by her daughter; the little girl was intelligent, interested and attentive. The little girl didn’t have to be plunked in the cart to shop with her mom. She was FINE on her own. I wasn’t in a great mood this morning (bad nights sleep) but the ice on the bare trees this morning and that little grocery store theater changed everything.

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    • It’s nice to see children and parents who really seem to enjoy each other. It’s not nearly as common as it ought to be. Especially this time of year, most families seem to be rather short of temper and lacking in a sense of humor. Isn’t it supposed to be exactly the opposite?

      It has been very warm here for this kind of year. Not summery warm, but in the 30s. Not true winter yet. I don’t mind, I must admit, but I’m surprised. We started off with a bang … snow on thanksgiving, but since then, not a flake. Hm. Garry brought me a poinsettia. Maybe I can keep this one alive to flower again. I haven’t had much luck with them in the past, but I live in hope.

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      • My Aunt Martha succeeded with that project here in Colorado one year, and it was a project. 12 hours of light 12 hours of darkness 365 days. She had to have people come in and take care of her poinsetta when she went away! We laughed at her, but it was actually cool.

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      • Yes, Christmas has changed a lot for us. I think it’s probably part of our getting older process. Now, we are “the old people”. Our generation of “old people” has abandoned us for parties with Clarence and his people. I still think I should be buying cards for my parents, aunts, uncles and others who were part of my life seemingly forever. Sending paper/real cards is still in my dna. I like our smaller, quieter holiday celebration. The classic Christmas movies evoke just enough nostalgia to keep the good memories alive. Here’s to good health…if you’re listening, Santa.

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        • I find it unbearable in a quiet place deep inside that I’m not buying cards and presents for the former “old people.” I liked them and I miss them. Strangely, though, that’s one of the elements of the season that I find makes it important for me. All the things around it — tradition — almost seemed designed to evoke glimmering moments of their presence along with gratitude for having known them.

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  4. I love everything about Christmas- decorations, movies, cartoons, carols, the mythology- even though I am not particularly religious. I do, however, respect the traditions of it all. Not just Christmas, from what I have witnessed of Hanukkah I also enjoy. It does seem like between the aging of my children (youngest is 14) and the advent of the internet and the lessening of social interaction of ALL people- the season has lost its luster. I don’t know if it will ever regain it. Sorry to put a “Grinch-y” spin on it. It also does not help that up until this last week it was almost 85° here in Phoenix. Makes it really hard to get into that “winter spirit”!

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    • Garry came home with a poinsettia which upped my spirits. He also managed to get everything I need to wrap my heart out at the dollar store, so I’m feeling much more seasonal than I did even a few hours ago. I think we are finally getting a little spirit around here. We move slowly these days, kind of like the Internet right now. It take time to get up to speed, but I think we are getting there. One step at a time. The season comes on so fast, you know? Like getting hit by a freight train. Takes us a while to dust off, realize that yes, we aren’t dead yet.

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  5. It is definitely kid-centric. I went for years without any decorations, but a stepdaughter has brought more Christmas cheer into the house.

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    • The youngsters get into the holiday in a way we no longer can. Even at 18, Kaity still gets that buzz, and you can feel she’s into it. Even though she’s too sophisticated to say so. It reminds me it’s worth the effort.

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  6. Nice, quiet, intimate. That’s the way to celebrate the season, in my opinion. But then again, I’m an old codger, so there’s that.

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  7. If there’s too much emphasis on giving and getting, then I think the real meaning of what this season is about gets lost. I’m Catholic, but converted from Pentecostal, nevertheless I see no use in stamping a paticular denomination on Christ’s character and what He certainly is: The Son of God.

    Again, wishing you and yours peace, love, and happines now and into and throughout the new year!

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  8. I’m Agnostic so it’s not my holiday either, but we still do the tree, lights and presents — like you this year is downsized for various reasons. We like the season. It’s a nice season.

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  9. My mum was a believer (Church of England). I don’t know about dad at the time, but he did not say much to keep the peace. Today he told me does not find it logical. Neither do I, but I think he is not sure, and still wants to stay on the safe side. At 99 years of age I would as well. I was wondering if you did hanukkah? It is funny but all the religions I know seem to have something at the end of the year, thinking of Muslims with their Eid and Hindus with Diwali. I just follows the masses not to cause any problems, but there is a lot I don’t bother with. Mr. Swiss said if it wasn’t for him we would have nothing at home for christmas. He is the one that gets the stuff from the cellar and distributes in through the apartment, although it is less and less every year.

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    • I would do Hannukah just for the fun of it, but where I live you can’t even find the candles for the menorah. This is SUCH a Christian area … we are THE integrated family in town. We’ve cut the holiday down to a manageable size. One string of lights, two little trees. I give Garry things he needs and would buy anyway, promise my son I’ll help him finance new boots — AFTER the holiday when everything is on sale. Give one nice gift to The Granddaughter. And buy myself a couple of things I want, tell Garry to wrap them, so at least I know I’m getting something I actually want.

      Ours is not a Christian holiday. Garry considers himself a Christian, but there has been considerable drift in his religiosity. It would be hard to define exactly what he is these days. I’m not sure exactly what I am, either. Whatever I am, it’s nothing that has a name. Or rules. Or dogma. Garry used to like church as a social thing, a connection to a community … but getting out of bed in time to get there on Sunday has eluded him for more than 40 years … a bit of slippage there. We used to get there a few times a year, but I started to balk. I didn’t want to go any more. So I don’t. He could go by himself, but there’s the whole “getting out of bed, getting dressed” thing and sleeping in wins ever time.

      I love the ethnic Jewish traditions — food, music, culture — but I’ve never been religiously observant. It doesn’t suit me nor do I believe it.

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      • Funny thing to add – my mother-in-law was Christ catholic, which is a Swiss way of being catholic without having the pope, but she had a wonderful jewish candle holder. she wanted it and always had candles burning at Christmas. I don’t know what happened to it but it probably went to one of the members of Mr. Swiss sister’s family.

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        • Why not? I have a Christmas tree … why can’t someone with a different background have a menorah? In reality, at least half the couples I know come from different religious and/or racial/ethnic background. We might as well celebrate. Otherwise, it’s just winter.

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  10. My family was the same as your first husband’s. My mother’s family was Catholic through and through, and my Dad’s family Baptist… but I guess they’d had enough of the religious thing when they got married. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve ever been in a church…

    But of course we celebrated Christmas because, much to the dismay of more fervent Christians, it has long lived a double life as America’s secular December giving holiday… and I imagine will continue to do so. Now that I’m old enough to be my own Scrooge, I can confine Christmas to the family get together… and maybe a few special treats for my online friends! 😉

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    • I like the music. Decorations. Food. Parties. Seeing people I don’t see any other time of the year. I could do without the thousands of emails urging me to spend MORE MONEY. I particularly love the ones from credit cards reminding me of how much is left until I hit my credit limit, so spend, spend, spend! Nonetheless, I enjoy the celebration at a time of year when autumn is over, and winter is about to grab us by the throat and imprison us until the spring thaw. It gives me the chance to shake out my “nice clothing.” And watch sentimental movies too sappy any other time of year. For Garry, it’s harder. It’s just him, his two brothers (both far away) and a few cousins. My family is even more gone. Some cousins I don’t see anymore plus distant cousins I’ve only met on Facebook. But, lucky us, we have live live family in the neighborhood. The son, the granddaughter, the DIL. It keeps the holidays alive. Much smaller, much less central to the year … but alive.

      It’s nice to celebrate something, even if it’s not my holiday, Saturnalia and Yule paved the way. I suppose that we no longer drink has changed it too. We actually have to do the whole thing (gasp) sober.

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