I have a totally split personality approach to Christmas. While I think the idea of cutting down conifers to bring inside for a few weeks is beyond ridiculous when you think about it, I love actually having a Christmas tree, because it makes our living room glow so beautifully, and it makes our house smell so good! Because of that, each year, I agonize over whether to do… or not… As for the rest, I grumpily stay out of the frenzied market mania leading up to The Big Day, and resent the forced acquisition of stuff just for the sake of “giving”. But, for those rare occasions when I come up with something that might actually make the recipient really, really happy, I can barely contain myself before I can present it to them. I’m especially happy if I can conveniently find it on-line, which I guess makes me the traditional retailers’ worst nightmare.
This year, a massive reorganization and transformation of our relatively tight living quarters rendered the annual conundrum a non-issue. Over the past month or so, we have moved the kids into their own, separate rooms. The mutual grinding of pubescent nerves had gotten about unbearable – this move was w-a-y overdue! As with any move, this one involved lots of disassembled furniture, outgrown or out-served stuff, books, clothes, toys, etc., but it also set off a chain of events that is still on-going. In order for the kids to get their own rooms, my husband and I had to move either to the attic or the basement. So, we started clearing those out too. The whole house was (and still is) full of piles of perfectly good stuff that needs to go. I’m not good at throwing good things out, so I’ve spent my days off taking trips to the Community Warehouse, the PTA Clothes Closet, Scrap, Goodwill, and other places that can put our stuff to good use. Since we both have day-jobs, and the kids for the most part are either in school, or zombies sucked into their respective screens, this project is proceeding gradually and pretty slow going. The house has looked like we just moved in for weeks, or like a tornado just went through – take your pick! Stacks of bins and boxes, artwork leaning against walls, displaced furniture, rolls of carpet laying across floors… you get the idea. So, when the time came to make our minds up about getting a Christmas tree, decorating, etc., we unanimously decided to skip it altogether.
“Are you sure you won’t freak out?” asked my beloved, as he knows that I have some pretty deep attachments to a few of the traditions (particularly the food-related ones). I said I felt sure I’d be fine, so we set out ignoring the surrounding buzz of the Holiday-prep with gusto. Other than the food, I usually have a pretty crappy attitude to it all anyway. But, as we delivered our piles to the various organizations, I actually started to get into the spirit a little. It felt really good to give away beds, linens, furniture, and little worn clothes to people who could actually use them. So, in a way, it felt like a much more legitimate Christmas than ever before.
In Sweden, Christmas Eve is the big day for celebration. We had made no plans whatsoever in terms of food, but decided last minute to make it fondue. When I was a kid, we always had fondue on New Year’s Eve. I loved spearing food on those cool, long forks and cooking it in the hot oil, and have plenty of fond memories (no pun intended) from those times. Our kids were no different. My Sauce Choron curdled, but no matter… We still had a fantastic time, where we sat with our forks in a sea of boxes. After dinner we made the kids watch Napoleon Dynamite with us – perhaps not the most traditional of Christmas movies, but a classic, nonetheless. Our oldest was howling with laughter from the first 30 seconds on, while the youngest barely made it through the end – he was so “embarrassed” by all that fabulous awkwardness he could hardly stand it.
On Christmas mornings, we usually roll out of bed, make coffee, pop Frank Sinatra’s Christmas Album into the stereo (yes, we still hoard both CDs, records, and have an old-fashioned stereo), and then hand out gifts. This morning, my DJ eye fell on a still sealed copy of some mysterious Bob Dylan Christmas compilation (Whaaa…??!!). I have NO IDEA where this gem came from, and nobody else in the household recalled ever seeing it before either. We figured it was some kind of humorous Christmas miracle, and since even the idea of Dylan’s raspy voice singing about drummer boys, angels, newborn kings and whatnot cracked us all up, we popped it in and gave it a listen. I still wonder what kind of cruel contractual commitment forced him to create such a thing – in all it was pretty funny, and gave us a few good laughs at all the songs we by now are so sick and tired of. After it was done, we replaced Bob with a hefty dose of the Ramones, which is fast becoming our favorite antidote to Christmas songs – so invigorating!
It used to require effort to be up before the kids, but this year, we actually had to wake those sleepy adolescents up. I think they’re enjoying their new beds too much… As both kids were holiday babies (one around Thanksgiving, and one on New Year’s Eve) we’ve never really gone off the deep end in terms of Christmas gifts, but this year was especially meagre. Which was totally fine, in my opinion. Normally we all compose our wish lists, and share them on Google Drive. (How sad is that…?!) This year, all of us – including the kids – had trouble coming up with “wants”. Such an affluent society problem – why force it if you can’t even think of anything you want? Besides, being in the middle of a purge totally tempers most any lust for more stuff. My list consisted almost entirely of a couple of things I had broken and wanted to replace. Anyway, because most of us (read; me and the kids) had not bothered, had forgotten, or simply miscalculated the time it takes for delivery in the ordering of the few items that had been expressly desired, this year’s offerings were rather slim. Or, perhaps I should say stretched out, or extended. Even so, in traditional Swedish style, each gift is accompanied by a poem, delivered by the giver. For the most part, the poems are terrible, and yet another source for laughter. We had so much fun! A shoutout to my mother who presented us with tickets to see Esperanza Spalding at the Oregon Symphony on the 30th! What a great gift! Sure to be a great event, it no doubt makes for fine memories too! Thanks mom! 🙂
In the late afternoon we went out for Dim Sum, so no sweating Christmas dinner either. I can totally get used to this kind of no-stress Holiday. In fact, I think I’m going to keep insisting on it. And, as for the gifts – who cares if they arrive a little late? I will choose to think that that only extends the fun. Fret not – they will come – eventually… For now, I will pack away my Grinch t-shirt for next year. It always serves me well this time of year. Like the revelation of the Grinch, I think the process of clearing out our mess off stuff, showed me what I want the real Christmas spirit to be. I think we have some traditions to re-shape!