Thursday, November 16, 2006


You know how Hulk's all anti-giftmas these years? Well, I'm...kind of...not. Should I apologize for that? Should I feel bad for being so excited that our new place has both a) a fireplace, however nonfunctional, and b) enough room for a real Christmas tree? I'm totally stoked to buy and make some Christmas ornaments and we even have a front door on which to hang something festive.

For me, growing up, Christmas was always totally the best day of the year because I got presents and both of my parents were pretty much in good moods (unless we'd gone to Grandma's, in which we were still all recovering from the 9-hour-car ride/fight). My dad seemed to make an effort to be nice on Christmas, and when I was really young he would get all excited about the cool toys he'd get us, like the metal detector or the remote-control cars (I think he just went to Radio Shack and picked up whatever was closest to the door, honestly, because that man hates to shop).

I figured out that Santa was really my parents when I woke up at age 3 to find them assembling stuff under the tree. I never told them and kept the Santa secret well past the age of disbelief, since I did have two younger sisters. As I got older my parents had some lean years in which I would volunteer to give up my Christmas presents, or many of them, so that my sisters could have nicer gifts, and I was totally OK with that - my mom would usually make it up to me 3 months later for my birthday. My parents were pretty careful to either treat us equally in terms of amount of money they'd spend on gifts, so that maybe one of us would have more presents and the others fewer, but the fewer would be more expensive. Or something.

My family had several Christmas traditions - my mom made an advent calendar with a felt tree on this really pretty piece of red silk. She embroidered numbers 1-25 and collected and saved interesting buttons over the years, so that when I was about 6 or 7 we started using it. My sister/s and I would take turns pinning the buttons that had been next to the numbers on the tree, and Mom would get to put the star on the top on Christmas day. My mom also had a number of recipes that she'd only make for Christmas, particularly cookies. When I was in college I had my mom email me with all the recipes so I'd have them for myself - the Austrian Chocolate Balls (heehee, I said balls), the Mexican Wedding Cakes, the layered bar cookies with raspberry jam, white chocolate/cream cheese, and dark chocolate, or the cookies layered with caramel/rice krispies and milk chocolate. And of course we'd make, cut out, bake and decorate sugar cookies.

As I've gotten older, and Things have Happened in my family, the holidays haven't felt quite like they used to. I guess that happens to everyone, regardless of whether their parents split up between Thanksgiving and Christmas. These days we spend one year in Colorado and one year in California (this is a Colorado year) and we have to ship or schlep gifts back and forth. But there's just something about Christmas - an indefinable air of hope, of people being nicer to each other, of Possibility. I still get that feeling waking up Christmas morning no matter where I am - the anticipation of opening presents, of relaxing and eating delicious yet rarely-eaten food (in my family it's usually enchiladas or lasagne), of spending time with family and friends. Since I started knitting several years ago I've also given quite a few handmade presents to my family and Hulk and other friends. This year I've got all kinds of projects in the works, including stockings to hang by our fireplace for both Hulk and I (his is already done! I finished it a few days ago).

Christmas could use some better movies, and probably some better music (EEK's mix CDs and 24 hours of Ralphie shooting his eye out on TNT notwithstanding), but even my friends who aren't even nominally Christian but instead Jewish, Hindu, or staunch atheist, seem to get into the whole thing. For me I guess it's a way to remind myself how much the people in my life mean to me, and to do things for them that show my love and affection. Hulk's getting a kick-ass present this year (not that I will say what it is, but I think he will lurve it), and I guess as long as we're in the same place for the holiday it will be home.

Now if only I could get him to get a little into it.


-qir said...

I'm sort of with you. I don't like seeing XMAS ornaments on the same shelves as halloween candy, but this week before Thanksgiving, I don't feel bad about seeing Christmas stuff in the stores.

I know that tons of manufacturers/retailers etc use a variety of not-so-subtle or even nice methods to drive the economy. I don't love that, but then again, I don't believe in Capitalism at all costs.

That said. Yuletide is the lone bright spot that gets me through winter. I get to pick and choose some of how the commercialization of christmas affects me, and mostly, I find it a little reassuring.

In short, I'm with you sister!

Anonymous said...

I loved Christmas when I was a child and teenager, too, but I've been up and down about it as an adult. On the years when I'm really not in the mood for the whole foofooraw, I just decorate minimally, bake a little bit and take advantage of the chance to get together with my sister and her family. On the years when I'm really into it, I pull out all the stops, even though my husband really couldn't care less.

I say go with whatever your mood dictates.

Monkey McWearingChaps said...

My sister and brother are hugely into Christmas. Decorations, baking, gifting...the works. They just bought a giant snowman. Let me repeat that. Giant. Blowup. Snowman.

I'm not into it independently but their enthusiasm gets me jazzed up.

We're still not a thoughtful-wrapped-presents type of family, though. I will take my sister and bro Christmas shopping when I visit them in Chicago...around New Years. Just like I took my sister shopping the day before her wedding for her gift (my gift to her was all the shit she didn't buy before she showed up for her own wedding...strapless bra, shoes, makeup, Starfrocks mochas, underwear blahblahblah)

I don't know, I'm ambivalent. I like giving gifts...though I like making them more than shopping, unless shopping = writing a check or a Scamazon gift certificate. I don't mind getting presents. I'm just really not tied to the holidays but I like parties. Growing up in foggy, cold, grey and snowy climates, I feel like holiday parties (when they're with people you like) kinda get you through the whole death and passing of a whole year depression.

yournamehere said...

I love homemade eggnog liberally spiked with bourbon. Merry Christmas.