Monday, December 20, 2010

Stockings With Care

This is another difficult subject for me. I don't do holidays well. My parents say that one year, I marched into the kitchen and told them, "Let's get this straight. There is no Santa." They say that they begged me not to tell my older sisters and ruin the holiday for them. No matter the temptation, I must have obeyed my parents, because my sisters continued to believe for another few years. I don't remember much of that conversation because of the event that followed. By Christmas Eve, I had full-blown chicken pox. Being miserable the entire Christmas break, only to get well in time to return to school, forever set my holiday expectations to low.

With the Santa incident though, I suspect that my ambivalent feelings toward the holidays started before chicken pox. Do you remember being all excited to see what was under the tree on Christmas morning? I don't. It was always, and still is, a moment filled with dread.  

So now I feel that I've been a huge Debbie Downer, but I've been honest. There is one aspect of Christmas that I like, and that's accidental tradition.  We don't do a Christmas tree, we don't don matching outfits and take a picture, and I haven't sent out a Christmas card in years, but we have our own ways of celebrating. One year for Christmas Eve, I made corn chowder, topped it with crab meat, and made fresh bread. Now when I ask what they want for Christmas dinner, the answer is always corn chowder with crab and bread. It wasn't planned; it just happened.  Most of the way we approach the holidays is like that. Something worked; they want it again; I deliver.

In our house, gifts are opened Christmas Eve and stockings are for Christmas morning. (Once we got past the Santa thing. He always left something, but only one toy.) You won't find a candy cane in their stockings though. This year, there's Japanese soda, chocolate oranges, high end art supplies, and other bits of stuff that uniquely, weirdly, bizarrely, specifically reflect their special interests. Nothing makes the holiday for me like hearing them laugh when something tumbles out of their stocking and they say, "How did you know?" There's magic in that moment. Maybe even Christmas magic. I've never experienced it myself, but it's cool to see it happen for someone else.      

10 comments:

  1. Delightful and quite the opposite of a downer.

    Merry Christmas

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  2. There's magic in that moment. Maybe even Christmas magic. I've never experienced it myself, but it's cool to see it happen for someone else.

    Really, that is an excellent way to approach it.

    For what it's worth, your sequence, most presents on Christmas Eve, stockings Christmas morning, is how we did it when the kids were young. A lot of your Christmas celebration sounds like ours.

    Thanks for sharing it.

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  3. Craig - that's how I found a way to enjoy it.

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  4. Hello, Kathleen,

    I think that lots of people don't much like Christmas. There's just this heavy load of expectation - surely there's something wrong with you if you're not all excited...

    Fortunately, you're not the sort to give in to other people's expectations!

    Take the magic where you find it!

    Hugs,
    Lisabet

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  5. Lisabet - When people say "I have to send out cards, or "I have to decorate," what they really mean is that they want to. It took me a while to figure out that I didn't "have to" do most of the things other people do, but now that I know, there's no way I will. That doesn't mean that I want them to stop, I just don't want to be part of it. "Have to" isn't fun.

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  6. "In our house, gifts are opened Christmas Eve and stockings are for Christmas morning. (Once we got past the Santa thing. He always left something, but only one toy.)"

    How funny, that was exactly how we did it too (the Santa present was our "big" present for the year). I haven't encountered many others who've arranged it that way historically, so how interesting to see Craig's family did so as well! Huh.

    Very happy winter to you, Kathleen. (Also, I'm now hungry for corn chowder with crab and fresh bread....)

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  7. Kathleen,

    I think that you have actually hit the true spirit of Christmas on the head, at least how my family and I see it.

    It isn't about what is under the tree, or decorating the house, but about the special moments together, the accidental traditions that make us feel good and closer to each other, the special things that show we really care, like making sure each stocking has something of meaning and not just stuff.

    We never did Santa Claus with my daughter, and she has asked us why many times. We always tried to explain it, but this year, she is finally old enough that she is starting to get it. Christmas is about being a family, about closeness, and we didn't want to mar that spirit with lies.

    I won't knock anyone else for doing as they feel is best in regards to Santa Claus ... but for us, we felt it better to not tell lies to our daughter. So no Santa, no Easter Bunny, and although she knows there is no tooth fairy, she delights in daddy's attempts to sneak into her room and put money under her pillow without waking her up.

    Michelle

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  8. Everyone - you make me feel like less of a scrooge! Thanks to all for your replies.

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  9. I was thinking especially about what you said about the stockings. We never hear this much, but giving a gift is an art in itself. Trying to find the gift and match it is a kind of statement of love, of how well you know that person. Thank you for that post.

    Garce

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