I'm always conflicted about the Christmas season. There is much to love and much to not love.
In the past, before marrying Mr. Dumbplumber and when I was working for minimum wages at a crappy job, standing on my feet for 8 hours a day and living in a crumbling shamble of a marriage, Christmas was a time of stress and hardship. With no money and no happiness in my life, I "put on a happy face" for my child. Keeping up the fantasy of Christmas was tiring, discouraging and depressing. We didn't have family close by so we rarely had any gatherings of relatives. No Norman Rockwell Christmases. Christmas was also a time to remind me how alone I was and isolated from family. We had presents, mostly hand made because I couldn't afford much else. I was the only parent who participated in the Christmas decorating or the Christmas spirit. We did have good food, cookies, candy, cakes and all the trimmings. THIS I can do on a shoestring.
Christmas to me, as an adult, always represented deprivation, hardship and inadequacy. My daughter didn't know this and her memories of the holidays are good. My job as a parent was successful: to protect your child and allow them the joys and fantasies of the holidays.
Things are different now and money isn't an issue, but the stress is still there. Like a cat that has been conditioned by evil scientists with shock treatments, I still am wary about the holidays. My wonderful husband says......GET OVER IT. So I try.
Today, there is much to like about Christmas and much not to like.
I love to give presents. To think about what the person needs and wants and to see their appreciation of the gift is priceless. To try to find just the right thing for each person. I still hand make many of my gifts because I like to do so. It isn't out of necessity now, it is out of love.
I hate wrapping presents. I don't do a very good job because I'm impatient. My packages look like a team of Chimpanzees did the wrapping. Frankly, I really don't see much point in spending lots of money on wrapping, bows, glitter and all that stuff. The package is going to be ripped open and the effort put into making it "pretty" is going to be burned in the trash barrel shortly after Christmas along with the other boxes and trash. Those gift bags that can be used over again are a brilliant invention.
I love decorating the tree. Each ornament.....mostly hand made from salt dough, knitted, quilted from fabric scraps or assembled from feathers from wild game we had killed and eaten, has a memory attached. Granted some of the memories are not so good, but others are. The fun that my daughter and I had making the hair of Santa's salt dough beard with a garlic press. The time we were able to buy a special ornament, that ceramic skating teddy bear or the glass prism stars.
I hate decorating the tree, because all the while I know that I will have to clean up all this stuff. The prickly tree will attack me and leave welts that itch and last for weeks. The lights become impossibly snarled. Each ornament will have to be put back into the boxes or wrapped up for protection. Knowing that as time goes on after Christmas, the tree will begin to look sadder and sadder and eventually be thrown out to be burned. What a waste of time. I'm always tempted to just throw the whole tree out with the lights still attached.
I love the cooking. What a great excuse to make mounds of goodies. To try out new recipes and give the results to friends. The holidays are a cooking fanatic and recipe junkie's best time of the year. Inviting family and friends over for a big feast is something I look forward to.
I love the fact that Christmas is when the days begin getting longer and that we are turning the corner of the short days, dark cold nights to the promise of spring and summer. To every season...turn turn turn.
I hate that my birthday is just after Christmas. January 6. Epiphany. A birthday party was always an afterthought. I think I had 3 birthday parties as a kid. Everyone else was burned out by the holidays from Halloween through New Years. Who wanted to have yet another party? Generally, it was just..."Oh...here is an extra gift for your birthday under the tree". I suppose it could be worse, my father's birthday is Christmas Eve.
In addition, many of our Christmases were spent in Mexico visiting with our relatives who lived in Mexico City or traveling to and fro to get there and back. Most of the childhood memories I have of Christmas are those with a Mexican tradition, not American.
I love some kinds of Christmas music. My favorites are the traditional tunes that are about the religious nature of Christmas. THIS is one of my favorites.
Which brings me to one of my biggest hates about Christmas. I HATE the merchandising The commercial buy buy BUY THIS STUFF attitude. The relentless shoving of products and brainwashing of the children to demand ever more gifts and ever more expensive gifts. I guess this goes back to my first issue of poverty and Christmas. As a parent, you often just can NOT get that Barbie Dream House, new bike, game system or whatever. The children, especially those who still believe in...you know who....don't understand this and when the gift they have their heart set upon getting isn't there, they think that maybe there is something wrong. Did Santa not like them this year? Were they bad? Terrible children? So in order to not disappoint your young child and to not appear to be an inadequate failure of a parent in the eyes of your children, you cave into the merchandising frenzy and go into debt for toys and items that often are just later discarded or wear out.
I try to think about the good things, remember WHY we have Christmas and to appreciate how much better my life is now. You do need to have experienced the downs in life to appreciate the good fortune you have..... and I am very blessed indeed.
Merry Christmas. Have some delicious cookies and don't let me wrap your presents for you.