I’ve never been a big fan of the crazed mindset that seems to settle in around this time of year. Like Samhain, Yule is a time for quiet and reflection in my life. I get uncomfortable with lots of consumerism and fevered must-make-this-the-best-Christmas-ever sort of thing. I like quiet; I dislike stress and noise and crowds. Fortunately my husband and son seem to think along the same lines, and I’m fairly certain our parents are thankful for the moderation as well. Christmas is about being together and giving thanks for your blessings. (And I don’t have a problem calling it Christmas either, because it’s a celebration of family and prosperity and thanksgiving for us all, no matter what your spiritual path, and this season encompasses a good two weeks of various cultural/religious festivals.)
That being said, we were blessed several times over this Christmas day. Not only were my parents in town to spend two days with us, but HRH’s parents spent the 25th with us as well. There are new clothes for everyone in this house, and new books, and gift certificates, and lots of lovely chocolate. Under all that wrapping was a lot of joy and love, both on the part of the givers and the receivers, and that’s what Christmas is about for me.
Everyone who felt it necessary to give Liam a present gave him wonderful things with which to play or wear. So much so, in fact, that over half the toys have been put away to hand out one by one on rainy days — including, I must add, the Fisher-Price garage that was the main gift from HRH and myself. We never even brought it upstairs to put it under the tree. When he woke up we showed him the stocking that Santa had hung on his doorknob. He dragged it around for a while before dropping it in the middle of the living room floor while HRH and I had our morning coffee and tea. When we showed him that there were things inside he was fascinated. And the best thing that came out of it was a pair of socks with Lightning McQueen on them. (Yes, socks; I kid you not.) He walked around with them for a while before he brought them to me to put them on his feet, and then he’d stop randomly during the morning to bend over, pull up a pant leg, touch the graphic with wonder and say “car”. The socks beat out the magnetic drawing board and the ball, but were only narrow winners over the clementine orange.
Once everyone had arrived we all had more fun watching Liam open and play with his gifts than anything else, I think; we all tended to sit there with unopened gifts on our laps and watch him explore whatever he had last opened, because he did so with such pleasure and such focus. The two big gifts from the grandparents were the Fisher-Price pirate ship from the local set (which gave us the perfect opening to demonstrate some of that impressive lexicon: “What does a pirate say, Liam?” “Arrrrr!”), and an Indigo-Chapters Thomas the Tank Engine wooden track and train starter set from the Ontario grandparents (which has an exclusive little book boxcar that Liam has been carrying around all day today). The boy was wonderfully well-behaved all Christmas day, playing nicely with everyone, eating well enough with all the distraction, napping at and for the usual time, and staying fairly on schedule despite the company and out of the ordinary activity. He readily ate scraps of turkey from his Nana’s hand while HRH carved it, but when we all sat down he only ate a few bites of peas and potatoes and turkey before asking for pasta with gravy on it, then a cracker with gravy. And he ate an entire butter tart for dessert; my mother made special smaller ones with currants in them for him.
With Nigella as my co-pilot again, dinner was excellent. Next year I will cold-brine the turkey first thing in the morning and not overnight, because while it was tender and tasted lovely I found it had a bit of saline sharpness to it, although that didn’t seem to slow anyone else down. (It reheats splendidly, though.) My mother-in-law brought her delicious mashed potatoes, and my mother brought tins and tins of Christmas baking for dessert, and both of them brought seafood-based hors d’oeuvres. And everyone brought wine.
The only downside to the day was the lack of snow, and even that was remedied by this morning when I opened the curtains to find a steady, silent fall of thick fluffy flakes. (Well, HRH consecrating the new incredible carving knife we got as a gift by slicing right through a turkey bone and into his thumb was a bit of a downer too. “I’ve never seen a carving knife go right through a turkey bone,” he said in amazement as he held his thumb under cold water.)
It was a lovely day. It was wonderful to work in the kitchen and hear all four grandparents playing with Liam in the next room. Now that he’s older and travelling with him isn’t as much of a production, I’ve resolved to travel down to TO more often so that he can play with his Nana and Grandad more than a handful of times per year.
The unavoidable squeeing: I got books! I got the new Thomas Pynchon, and The Constant Princess, and the new Juliet Marillier! Liam gave me white gold hoop earrings, and HRH gave me pearl and diamond stud earrings that match the pendant he gave me last year! I got lovely, lovely clothes, and warm fuzzy chenille socks, and suede gloves, and a new red leather wallet to match my red shoes! < /squeeing>
Kino Kid, a friend whom I dearly love, has created a meme associated with the holiday season that is worthy of propogation, so take this and spread it far and wide.
A few of my favourite things:
The holidays are a time of positive and negative feelings, and some in between. Try to banish the negative ones. Write five positive, personal associations you have with the holiday season. A word will do – no more than one line each.
I enjoy the holiday season for these reasons:
1. People finally make time to sit down with friends and just enjoy their company. (Yes, it ought to happen more often; no, it rarely does. If the holiday season gives us a reason to finally *make* the time, then that’s a good thing.)
2. Watching people be happy about generosity, genuinely appreciating giving and receiving without obligation. (I think this is something some people never understand. You don’t have to gift someone, not even if they gift you. Gifting is about choosing to do it for the sake of doing something nice for someone else, no strings attached. For example, people were very thoughtful and generous to Liam this year, and I know they did it because they wanted to. We certainly didn’t expect them to!)
3. Seeing family I don’t get to see as often as I would like.
4. Creating joy and wonder for little ones.
5. Chocolate. (HRH gives all his Christmas chocolate to me. Isn’t he sweet?)
And the bonus association (yes, not only can I not keep it down to a single word or sentence, I have to add another slot):
6. Snow. (It gets on my nerves by mid-January, but in December I love it for the peace and cosiness it fosters.)
I keeled over asleep around four this afternoon and had an hour-long nap, and now I’m awake instead of sleepy. I intended to have a bath and then go to bed early but I lost track of time. And there was sushi, so I’m not competely to blame.
I’m off to bed to read until I fall asleep. I’m already a third of the way through The Constant Princess. I think it’s too late for a bath, although I reserve the right to change my mind between here and the bedroom.