It warms my heart, to use a cheesey expression to see my social media feeds filled with plans by other parents to downscale the Christmas pagentry and upscale the meaning of Christmas. Ever since I met Mark and we spent our first Christmas mostly apart because of family obligations and circumstances beyond our control, I've been focused on spending Christmas being with people I love, who love me, and sharing good food, frequent hugs, a bottle of bubbly and one of Baileys, and a superhero movie. Because without the love and laughter of family and friends, it doesn't matter how many presents are under the tree. We have tried to maintain that tradition with his older kids and our girls.
I don't think it would be stretching things to say that our Christmas revolves around feasting. I like to plan our big meals over a couple of weekends with my girls and Mark. Ok, we start planning the weekend after Thanksgiving. It's a thing for us. Pouring over recipe books, flipping through magazines, pulling out the notebooks where all our feasts from the past ten years are written down. Trying to find the perfect balance between tradition and new. It's actually the perfect microcosm for our
A friend of ours mentioned Christmas traditions and trying to decipher or distinguish between what is nostalgic and what is good. I'm trying to build what is good and throw in some nostalgia, and limit the over indulgences for our girls.
Some of our current favourite traditions are from our own childhood, from the books we read- The Nativity, The Polar Express-to the music we listen to: New-ish rock versions of Christmas carols mixed in with some German arrangements by James Last, a little Elvis, some John Denver and the Muppets, and of course, the classic crooners. We put our own spin on this with newer books and listineing to the music every morning with the Christmas lights twinkling as we get ready for school. It is a fun way to start the morning and infact I may just keep the fairy lights up in the window for the long dark months of winter! As a kid, we always made a semolina alcohol infused cake and milk toffee that was distributed to everyone we knew. I don't have that with family and friends, but I'd like to start something similar, one year, when I'm more organized! But what we do have is the baking together, we bake and decorate sugar cookies and try new cookie recipes too. This year we even made cake pops and it may or may not have been because the chocolate cake collapsed in here middle and I needed a solution. Let's just say they were appreciated and perhaps might become our tradition. Of course, there's a tree to decorate in a haphazard, all hands on deck way, and getting a real one every year is something Mark does for me and while I wish we could get it earlier, and always consider an artificial one, it's a tradition we have that I don't want to give up. We keep the presents hidden until just before Christmas because it adds to the anticipation. Though the stockings decorate the stairs from the time the lights go up.
Unlike when I was a kid, Santa, doesn't bring the big stuff. It has to fit In your stocking and tends to be more old fashioned like chocolate, a clementine, socks, and a little toy. Every year we buy the girls a book, an outfit, Christmas Eve pjs and one other fun item. Last year it was an easy bake oven. For both of the bigger girls. Yes,that's right, a shared present. They are getting a shared gift this year too. I like to have my shopping done before the first. No need to think about navigating traffic and swarms of unhappy shoppers. I spent too many years in retail to subject the poor employees to that. Yes, I get it, the market and the economy, but sheesh, nothing about that requires you to be a complete pain in the ass as a shopper.
But truth be told, I struggle with whether to take the girls to the shopping centres-I want them to see the lights and decorations because they are pretty but no one is calm in a busy mall so we drive around the various neighbourhoods. I'm also bit of a monster as I don't perpetuate the Santa myth. But, they believe though I don't encourage it and so that eases up on trying to get the picture if my girls on a strange man's lap. My little L is currently fascinated with the man in red and I briefly thought about taking her to the village at Sherway Gardens shopping centre when I was there for shampoo the other day. Side note, trust me, it was an essential visit or I wouldn't have been there as no one needs to see me without hair product! But from several stores away at 9:30am I could hear the shrill voices of the "elves" and hear the chaos of dozens of families crammed into the centre of the mall armed with toys to make their kids smile, cameras (multiple), and twice that number of kids split between being absolutely terrified and completely bouncing off the walls hyper.
Nothing about that scenario said Christmas to me. Nothing about that said , listen, prepare, be joyful, have hope, let the baggage go, exude peace. As I thought about it, I realized that I don't have to indulge in my child's desire to go see Santa and write a wish list of presents to receive. Advent is a time of preparation, of hope and of anticipation. We just returned to church and while I have so many issues with the dogma and governance of the church (though I quite like Pope Francis!) my faith is important to me and I'm happy we are bringing that tradition back into our lives. It doesn't mean I have to blindly accept all of the church's traditions, but it also plays both ways: I don't have to accept all of the commercial traditions either!
Come to think of it, none of my girls have ever actually asked to do either of those things. The grandparents ask for lists, which we reluctantly provide only to try to stay the influx of useless presents and aim for things the girls actually need and want. My girls are pretty gracious kids so a book or a game would make them so happy if you would indulge them by reading to or playing with them. Every animated movie on blu ray. Nope, don't need it. Singing, flashing, plastic toys-nope. A CD of music you think or know they like or that you do-awesome! Look, I get it, it's fun to buy gifts for kids and to wrap them and then watch them unwrap 'em. Take them for lunch, take them for a walk, take them sledding, take them shopping if you must because at least it will be an event. My girls have received gifts we have sent straight to goodwill the next day and we only felt guilty about the waste of money. If you have money to burn on my kids, they have a university education we need to help pay for! It's interesting to me that R's godfather, who doesn't have kids, and only one nephew just a year or two older then R,gets it's he brings her chocolate and a gift card for books or music. They eat the chocolate with her sisters and then he watches a movie with her and let's her read to him and they play a game or make a puzzle. Perfect! Another friend makes them presents that they love, but she also takes them swimming in the summer and for tacos, which they adore!
So here is where my inner peace is at risk. For the last three years we avoided the dual family get togethers at the holidays- but that was for us. Mark and I have a hard time navigating the demands on our families. But maybe our girls would like to resume it. And maybe we need to just let it go and let it be what it will be. (Trust me, there are a few moments from our wedding that we are trying to forget involving our families being in the same place at the same time. But at least the hostility wasn't directed at each other.) So we will give it a whirl again this year. We're thinking Boxing Day brunch. Extend the love by extending the feasting. Besides, it's not too early to pour some Bailey's into my coffee if it's brunch not breakfast right?