Thursday, December 11, 2014

Spirit of Christmas Past

I wrote this post four years ago, when Nola was just two but already had much to teach us about how to enjoy the joys of the season. I realize, as I wind up my marking and am released into Christmas preparations, that I could use a reminder about how best to keep the preparations themselves as joyful as any one day they're working toward.  Thus reminded, I'm meeting one of my daughters for lunch tomorrow after which we'll shop together for a gift she'll let me take home and wrap, to be opened on Christmas Day. I'll do the same with another daughter on Sunday. It's a practice I started last year, in frustration at not being able to "take on" the "chore" of Christmas shopping until my marks were submitted, mid-December, by which time the shops are crowded, the days frantic. I was delighted by how it worked, turning something from my to-do list back into the joy that it was meant to be, this gift-giving. True, I've surrendered the possibility of surprise, but for now, at least, the trade-off has been very favourable.

So getting ready for this weekend outing, I thought perhaps you wouldn't mind a repetition of the post expressing the spirit that inspired it. . . Here is that post:




Instead of being overwhelmed with Christmas stresses, piling up gifts under the tree to be torn open in an avaricious half hour, or stirring and baking and frying and chopping and mixing all our favourite foods to be devoured over one or two big days, I'm a fan of stretching out the little joys. I take my lead from a two-year old who, when first discovering the joys of the wrapped gift, is delighted to tease off the paper small piece by small piece. "I did it, Nana. I ripped it all off!"


Similarly, instead of trying to include everyone at our Christmas table or visit everyone over that one day -- oh, those early years of attending my family's Christmas Eve, then after having "our" Christmas morning together opening gifts, driving out to his family's Christmas dinner -- we spent the day with my mom on Saturday, taking her for a lovely long walk by the river and then out to the IHOP for lunch. Then Sunday we treated Pater's parents to a delicious brunch at Stanley Park's wonderful Fish House Restaurant with our three daughters, two of the partners, and Nola. Since the older folks don't host family gatherings anymore and live a bit far out for the kids to get to easily, those generations don't get together often enough. A lovely meal together, dressed casual-festive, in a wonderful setting (heritage building with vistas of surrounding parkland) -- what gift could surpass this celebration of family well-being and good fortune?!

Grandparents kept saying "Oh, the grandchildren are so good-looking" "Their partners are really nice, aren't they!" but especially, "That Nola is so smart" and "Isn't that Nola cute!" -- in other words, a gift that unfolded slowly. . .
Today, I'm meeting my sisters for drinks and then dinner. Yes, there will be some nasty forays into too-busy shops before that, but I'm hoping to get in and out before the worst of it, and I am pretty focused on what matters. I'm going to savour choosing a book for each of our kids and partners, and hope that it can be opened with this much anticipation . . .

I'm also going to remember that the gift itself isn't the important element, although I will choose as carefully as I can. Rather, it's the company in which we will open it, the feelings of love that, if we're attentive to what really matters, will accrue to the season for little persons like Nola -- who can keep teaching the rest of us the joys and gifts of Christmas

For years, when people would ask if I were ready for Christmas, I would answer something like "It's coming whether I am or not" signalling that I would cope with the day whatever my level of readiness. Now, I think I'm more likely to say that it's already here and that I'm making the most of it. The religious significance of Christmas is an important part of my upbringing and cultural background, but the date itself, the one-day celebration of Christ's birth, is a fairly recent construction historically. I still love the treasures of that one focussed Eve and Day, but I'm already beginning to open the Gift. After all, learning from a very small child is part of the meaning of Christmas, no?

How about you? What Christmas gifts are you already opening?

There it is, all over again, a good reminder for me, at least. And isn't it astonishing how much Nola's changed in those four short years? She had three great grandparents at the time; there's only one great grandmother left now, and she's unlikely to be with us next year. I'm so glad we slowed down and had festive morning together.

8 comments:

  1. Oh yes, the run-up to Christmas. Even when there is not much to be done, it always seems to rush at you finally. And I too have marking to be done before Monday - the last week of school. Full craziness is already sweeping us all. Personally, all I wish is to stop and sit very still. But all the songs, sparkle and lights help to buoy one up. Beware the weight of expectation!

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    1. Exactly! And we do have control over those expectations, although it can feel as if we don't. ...

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  2. A great reposting, Mater. It behooves us all to enjoy this moment, this day, even as we prepare. Yes, Christmas is here already and will continue past the 25th. Wishing you joy in your preparations (and even the marking.)

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    1. "Joy" is a rich word, worth pondering, isn't it? Enjoy, as well, as an extension. Different from simple happiness or contentment (which are also good, of course) ....and I thank you for the reminder that, thus, Joy might also be found as well even in the tasks, marking, for instance.

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  3. I love the idea of a festive season. And how nice to see pictures of Nola in her younger days - she's growing up!

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    1. She really is! It's mesmerizing to watch!

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  4. A festive season is definitely the way to enjoy Christmas to the full and it looks as though you have lots of treats lined up. Sharing present buying with your close family is as special as receiving a present, I think. I do wish though that people wouldn't ask if I am ready for Christmas and, like you, I feel it will all happen anyway one way or another.

    Have a blissful weekend.

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    1. Oh, thank you! May you find bliss as well! what a lovely wish . . .

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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