Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Simple Christmas

We're back from Christmas at the lake. We had a wonderful time. One thing that I have learned over the years is that it is often hard to have things live up to people's expectations. I guess by that I mean that I think many people peg so many hopes - for love, for comfort, for connection as well as quiet time, for peace as well as being surrounded by loved ones, for excitement as well as rest, for joy in giving as well as pleasure in receiving along with so much more - on just one short day instead of doing this on every day throughout the year. I feel that in the consumer culture we live in that we are definitely encouraged to think this way. I think perhaps such unrealistic expectations can lead to disappointment for many. I think people tend to do this on many "special days" - Christmas, birthdays, weddings - and it can lead to frustration. Years ago I decided to make a conscious choice to just enjoy what was on Christmas instead of fretting about what I hoped it would be. It isn't that there was ever any thing wrong with our celebrations - I have always enjoyed them very much but I think often there was a feeling of relief that all the planning and organizing was done and also a feeling of it being an awful lot of work for just one day. I think perhaps as an adult I expected to feel the same sort of excitement of the day that I had as a child and now I am able to look at it differently while enjoying watching my kids enjoy a similar excitement to what I had as a child.

Traditions play a very important part in all our family celebrations. All through my growing up years my Dad would read this book to my brother (a gift to my brother on his first Christmas) and I each Christmas eve before bed...then we would hang our stockings by the fireplace, have our picture taken, put snacks out for Santa and the reindeer and go upstairs to bed. He continued reading it to us loooong past the age when one would normally no longer get bedtime stories. ;-) And now he reads it to my boys. I love seeing this and feel blessed to have parents who will carry on many such traditions for my own children.
Now on Christmas day I get a lot of pleasure from giving handmade gifts. I make time for time outdoors - sledding, walking, lying in the snow and bird watching. We eat...and eat...and eat some more - all our seasonal favourites. We play games. This year we also had a slide show - my mom got out all the old slides from early days in our family and we had a trip down memory lane. What fun. After the slide show we ate some more; it was time for the Christmas pudding! I've never had a Christmas without Christmas pudding - it is a Must Have! in our family. It is quite hard to describe to someone who has never had it before since it is not at all like pudding and telling someone that it is like a moist steamed cake doesn't quite do it justice. Also if you happen to tell anyone some of the ingredients ( grated potato and grated carrots) then they think you must be just a little bit crazy to eat it. ;-) My Dad's family always had his with white sauce (which is like a hard white icing) and my mom's family always had theirs with a caramel sauce so there has always been friendly argument in my family as to which is more delicious. I solved this simply when I was a child by always having both - the white sauce on first followed by the hot caramel sauce which sort of melts it all into a lovely sweet saucy mess. My husband and boys were pretty quick to see the sense in this. ;-)
So...Christmas for me now is about family, traditions, food and fun. And that is more than enough to make it a pleasure for me. Something else that I find at this time of year is that our traditions help me feel a connection with past generations of my family. A few of the slides in my mom's slideshow showed family sitting down to Christmas dinner - so heartwarming seeing my grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and other family that has been gone from our lives for years sitting together to enjoy their Christmas dinner...on plates that my mom still has. It reminds me that time passes quickly, that life is precious, that family is what matters and that I am lucky to be surrounded by family, that I should never hesitate to celebrate because life truly is good.

1 comment:

Anne said...

This post brought tears to my eyes! Sounds like you had a lovely time. Traditions are wonderful. We're enjoying making up our own and adding something new each year.