Sunday, December 5, 2010

Holiday Blues

The holidays are a strange time. There is much anticipation for our most favorite time of year... beginning for many in spring and in summer, thoughts start drifting to the colder months, when family, friends, and food come in to the spotlight, and plans start being dreamed up. The magic, though far off, seems almost tangible while planning in air-conditioned spaces and through baking heat waves. It sometimes feels like it will never be wintertime again!

However, somewhere around Thanksgiving- for many- a shadow falls over the merrymaking. Something slowly starts sucking joy and energy out of the process, leaving people feeling blue. I can even feel it sometimes, when you step back from all the traditions and holiday routine and wonder, 'What's missing?' A Charlie Brown moment, if you will.

I try to reflect on this feeling whenever it comes up. As cliche as it is, I think it might have something to do with the pressure and expectation that comes from the commercialism of the holidays. How could you not feel a little bummed believing that everyone expects something cutting-edge, expensive, and completely unique every year? Why wouldn't a feeling of powerlessness and of time slipping away start intruding into the homemaking, nesting, and celebrating of the season?

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday for that very reason. It embodies everything I love about holidays, without the commercial pressures that come along with, say, Christmas. You get the family togetherness, the festive feeling in the air, the celebration of the beauty of the changing season, and yet... no gift lists. Eureka.

I had an epiphany this year. Why was Thanksgiving really my favorite holiday? For me, it is the simple celebration of things being made and shared with the ones you love. A time when homemade goodness is the staple and the expectation. A quiet moment shared by giving of yourself and the labor of your hands (well, mostly... I'm not trying to say Thanksgiving is completely immune to the commercial).

This thought process brought me to a simple conclusion: for me, a homemade Christmas may be the best way to truly savor the all-too-fleeting holiday season. In years past and for not-too-distant generations, this was the expectation, and the time leading up to that magical morning was a time of festive celebration, not harried running about, spending and sacrificing and worrying. Though it would be a slow transition, wouldn't it be great to be able to move back to a time when every day of the winter season is savored with activity and attention to projects of love to be shared at the holiday gatherings, instead of focusing on things?

I will probably never be one to completely throw off the influence of the commercialized Christmas machine, but as my children grow older and grasp more fully the meaning of the season, I will instill in them something greater than wish lists and wannas. I will make the holidays something magical and special that won't end with a big letdown on December 26th, and maybe with that effort, I will make this time even more special and meaningful for myself.

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