Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas Magicking

It's funny how Christmas takes on different flavors as I get older. December as a whole becomes different, and instead of a spectator, I'm the orchestra director. I'm the one doing the Christmas magicking, whereas as a child it just seemed to happen. Back then, the music wrapped around the days in a soundtrack of jingle bells and choirs. My parents called us downstairs for the Christmas story, and explained our traditions as we lit candles and unpacked the tree. My mother taught us special Advent crafts, and we made ornaments of clay or felt that represented Baby Jesus coming to this world to show God's persistent love to surprised humans.
As a child, I watched as presents appeared under the tree, and wrapping paper rolls appeared in the closet. Guests showed up at our house to feast and laugh and hug. As an adult, and especially as an adult living in Holland, I know that Christmas dinners only happen when everyone synchronizes their schedules and messages about who brings what food. As a wife, and especially as a wife of a man surrounded by renovation projects, I know that holiday gifts and decorations and cooking tend to be the woman's responsibility. It was easier when the magic arrived at my house and I just had to greet it. Preferably with fuzzy slippers and hot cocoa.

It's not a bad thing to be responsible for making the magic, to know that work goes into it. To know what goes on behind the scenes.
 I have a special memory of staying up late one night as a teen, with the secret task of wrapping everyone's presents except for my own. Less work for my mom, more time online with my friends for me, and a win-win situation. When my siblings and I got older, we started finding presents for each other and going on mysterious shopping trips. I know that as Pippin gets older, I can draw him in more, letting him choose carols and find presents for family. He's already a grand little helper at mixing pancakes or muffins, and we made Christmas cards a few weeks ago together. Our small artificial tree that we've had since D's and my first Christmas together is just the right height for a toddler, but we're talking about getting a new, live one this weekend. While Pippin would want to help arrange (and rearrange) ornaments, he won't understand that it's a tradition to have a Christmas tree. Or that the little rocking horse ornament he chewed on as a baby has traveled with me around the world since I was a little girl. He doesn't know the carols yet, or understand that I tear up when I sing 'O Holy Night' because I think of it as my grandfather's song.

I know that this is an unusual year, with the renovations and new house and new city, and that no one expects me to have it all together (not now, maybe ever). But part of me worries that we'll miss out on this holiday season if I don't really stop, really take the time for it. That maybe I'll wake up one morning and it will be the third of January, and I'll have forgotten to fill our stockings with little treasures and mandarins, or given Pippin the present that I've been hiding for months, or to surprise D with something fun. There are already traditions that I've carefully let go for the time being, like singing carols with lit candles at night during Advent, or baking eight or ten different kinds of cookies to take to neighbors and eat whenever possible. But maybe its not a bad thing to adapt traditions. Like making carrot cake and banana bread muffins to wrap up as gifts for friends, instead of cookies for neighbors. Since my toddler and husband aren't all that enthusiastic about singing (yet), maybe we'll go on walks to see the Christmas lights in the harbor near our new house. And even if I would forget to pull out any presents at all until January, they would still be a surprise for my menfolk, who have have absolutely no expectations of holiday gift-giving. 
It's almost mind-blowing to think of going through a December like that. No expectations? No wistful comparisons to old Christmases. No pressure to find that perfect outfit or present, to out-do or update last year's decorations or dinner. If some gift or shirt or recipe shows up, great; if not, there's still a holiday to enjoy. Then again, if I just rolled through December like that, I think I would be very bored. Someone needs to do the preparation for magic in this house, so that when it comes, it's welcome. If the meals are planned and the presents bought, the stress is tucked out of the way, and there's time for looking at the stars together on a crisp night. Or maybe for sleeping in on Christmas morning while we still can. And whether a stocking gets opened in January or precisely on Christmas Eve or Morning, the mandarins and little treats will still be magical to Pippin. 

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