Enjoying the Holiday Season

The following is adapted from a column published in the Craig Daily Press in 2012.

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My husband Joel and I disagree about holiday movies. He refuses to watch A Christmas Story every year, and I’m not interested in reruns of Miracle on 34th Street.

Compared to other anxiety-ridden situations that surface during the holidays, disagreeing about whether to watch the shenanigans of a department store Santa or Ralphie’s pleas for a BB gun seem insignificant.

Fortunately, we have experts eager to tell us how to glide gracefully through the holiday season without exploding into hysteria, eating a pound of peanut brittle, or crawling under a bed.

Their advice flows freely: Get enough sleep. Make a list of tasks to be accomplished and stick to it. Stay within your budget. Relax in a bubble bath before your guests arrive.

Right.

They warn that when we deny ourselves the special foods of the season, we’ll binge later on stale marshmallows. Instead, we should indulge in all the goodies that come our way, but only sample them: take half of a brownie and a taste or two of ice cream.

Seriously? Might as well ask a flea not to bite.

Despite expert advice, most of us experience stress during the holidays. We over-schedule our lives and become cranky as we rush about. We grow too weary, or drink more than a sip or two of eggnog, and then say things we regret. We question gifts we receive—elf house slippers or salt-and-peppershakers from Branson—and worry when others don’t seem to like the gift we gave them.

And through it all, we wonder why we don’t feel the joy of Christmas like we did when young: everybody happy, everything beautiful, each moment perfect. Advice columnists answer this one correctly: the wonder of childhood Christmases cannot be duplicated; nor were they perfect.

As an adult, looking through my Aunt Mary’s photograph album, I came across a snapshot she took when I was eight — the year I asked Santa for a redheaded princess doll. The photo, dated 1950, showed me bludgeoning my brother Bob with a blonde baby doll, and bawling, as we battled in front of a Christmas tree that tilted awkwardly to one side, as though trying to escape.

But I remember the Christmases of my childhood as perfectly joyous occasions.

And I wish the same for you in 2014.

 

 

 

 

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22 thoughts on “Enjoying the Holiday Season

  1. I’m with Joel. Are you CRAZY??? 🙂

    But really, the ultimate answer is Holiday Inn, followed by White Christmas (lest the color dampen your spirit for the black-and-white). Actually, it’s even better to start with Going My Way and Bells of St. Mary’s – and somewhere in there, hit The Bishop’s Wife. Too many people dwell on It’s a Wonderful Life (which the kids found unbearably depressing and refused to watch again, demanding a return to Bing) and miss the joy of the rest. And in my old age, I’m even a convert to Elf, The Santa Clause (we skip straight to #2), and Arthur Christmas.

    Pass the popcorn and junior mints. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’d hate to be on Jeopardy competing with you in the category of Christmas movies; I wouldn’t stand a chance. I’d just have to eat popcorn and junior mints (You remembered!) and smile while you answered everything.

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  2. It’s hard not to wish for time travel during the holidays. I went back to where it all ended after a 35 year absence, it was sad. The place was much smaller than I remembered, the people older and fatter, their connections with me gone. I suppose my ghost of Christmas past is a lie, but it’s my ghost; besides, the reality would only be a guess now. MERRY CHRISTMAS! Did you get my email?

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  3. I disagree with you both! It’s “White Christmas” and “Meet Me in St.Louis” (just for Judy singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas) for me. However, I do agree that the perfect Christmases of our past are actually more like a “greatest hits” album. The best tree. The best gift. Everyone home. I find it helpful to remember that even the first Christmas–planned by the man upstairs himself–didn’t go perfectly. The guests of honor had to sleep in the barn.

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  4. Great post there Janet- I myself celebrate Yule, and Solstice, I cannot abide Bing or “The Sound Of Music”, which has been on every night this week. I love the old traditional carols, The Grinch, and Child’s Christmas in Wales,the old animated Drummer Boy, and vintage Lucille Ball. Something annoyed Ma one year, she threw the partially thawed turkey in the oven and broke the element, being a small town, the hardware man agreed to meet her at the shop with a replacement, of course the car would not start, so I broke trail on my cousins horse through the snow. We ate the turkey about midnight. Very pioneerish- my memories are oft over welming..To you, Joel and family, have a jolly fun Yule..

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    • I’m glad your memories swirl so freely, Sheila, because the rest of us continually benefit from them; and the turkey memory is one of the most amusing Christmas memories I’ve read. Joel and I also celebrate the Solstice — mainly by watching it and talking about it, but it lifts my spirits. Merry Christmas to you, my dear friend, and please remember not to throw your turkey into the oven.

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      • Thanks Janet- “What is so gross about Sweet n Sour Turkey Wings? That is what I am having, everyone grimaced today at the thought. It was the only single feed Turkey parts left tonight, apart from the Iggly Bits. I lived outside in England for two winters, that is where I discovered Solstice, and reverance for the seasons, it was the best thing I have ever done, so glad you and so many others have tapped into the wonder. Silly to ask after your snow, damp and mild here, xx Sheila.

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      • So how were the wings? Not a traditional choice, but an interesting one. I don’t know why or when I developed it, but for as long as I can remember, I’ve had a “reverence for the seasons,” as you so wonderfully put it. I think my writing flows easiest and strongest when I’m describing them, thus my book built around the seasons. Since our first, glorious snowfall, the flakes have been unusually sparse for us, but this morning they are starting to fall more abundantly: the best possible Christmas gift. Christmas hugs, Janet

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  5. Once I discovered the Winter Solstice, from whence came the Christian holiday we call Christmas, everything changed. The coming of the light and the promise of the ongoing cycles of life are far more rewarding to me than anything present-day Christmas can offer.

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    • As with so many things, I once again find myself in 100% agreements with you. For the reasons you stated, I, too, respond to and celebrate Winter Solstice. In fact, I’m working on a newspaper column about it right now (a weird combination of the wonder of the solstice and my dislike of daylight savings time.) Would it be OK if I quote you in it? I’d like to use your last sentence and would credit wakingofthebear. Happy Solstice!

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  6. Love reading that others have moved to Solstice for their most magical “Christmas” feelings as an adult. I have done the same, never attributed it to searching for the magic I felt as a child but, now I am not so sure.
    I think that the pressure as an adult, to give your child or family those memories that you had, is so much pressure! And, from what I can see, it happens no matter, because children possess something adults lose along the way to adulthood, wonder. They see life through wondrous eyes and when you do that, you see magic even in places of chaos and unfulfilled expectations. Solstice is a lovely celebration of letting go of something that doesn’t serve you in the new year and bringing in something that will. There is deep wonder in that, for me still and I think there always will be. Merriest holiday wishes to you and your family, Janet. May your New Year be full of peace and wondrous words to share with us!

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    • Carrie, I relished this long, lovely reply from you, which, like other comments, reflects so many of my — sometimes unformed — thoughts.I have long marveled at the ability of children to be happy, find fun, and feel the wonder that you described so beautifully. My best wishes to you, Carrie, for continued magnificent photographs, engrossing words, and the warmth of family, friends, and lengthening days as we celebrate the season and move into a new year.

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  7. I just discovered your blog/Facebook page and have enjoyed your own beautiful words, as well as the anecdotes of your friends and acquaintances. Thanks to all for helping me stay focused on the important moments of this wonderful season.

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    • Sarah, how happy I am that you’ve found me; now we have a quick way to visit besides exchanging a few quick words when we chance to meet. I hope your Christmas was wonderful, and that you are relaxing and taking naps.

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  8. The best part of Christmas was the anticipation. Even as a teenager I’d wonder what was in each gift – for me, who cared what was in my brother’s pile.
    As I grew older, the greatest gift became the gift of giving. Whether it is finding the perfect gift or simply giving time and energy, family and giving are what the season is really all about.

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    • “…the gift of giving” is such a lovely thought, and so true. I’ve stored it in my head for future reference! I hope you have a wonderful new year full of family, fun, and continued beautiful words that flow freely when you write.

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