My end-of-year has been Over the Top! I am now thinking, “How much Christmas is enough?” At first I wanted to blame my busyness on Christmas but it wasn’t really. Everyday things kept going on despite the “need” to prepare for celebrations.
A bit of background. My family of origin celebrates Christmas big-time in the Roman Catholic tradition. This year I spent 6 weeks enmeshed in Christmas goings-on before the 25th, and I came to appreciate my parents’ observance of Advent. For them, Christmas starts on Christmas day; it doesn’t end there! Their preparations involve the 4 Sunday masses of Advent, lots of baking, decorating the house and yard, and having lots of visitors and big meals on both the 24th and 25th. But then they enjoy fine food, drink, decor, visitors and quiet contemplation – for at least another 12 days, if not the whole month of January.
Meanwhile I felt like Christmas started on November 12 and went for 43 days! I reviewed November and December, trying to figure out why I felt so rushed. I work a mix of weekdays, evenings and Saturdays. This year I had work events on 2 additional Saturdays and church commitments on 3 additional Saturdays. My nephew stayed overnight at our place 4 times – always a pleasure, but it adds a time crunch to the mornings, which are normally so leisurely!
At work I did 4 evening programs for teens during this time, which is rewarding but exhausting – I don’t know how our Teen Library Assistant does it! (Note to Self: no year-end vacation for her in 2015, LOL!) I also organized 2 Christmas crafts programs at work. I had to select the crafts, buy materials, make models, and then teach them! I was really, really rusty. But it did build my confidence a little, especially after sharing an afternoon with the grateful participants. I had two baby showers to attend – despite not having been to any for about 5 years. Seeing the parent’s happiness was a pleasure, too. I had my regular work evening meetings. Amidst it all, I was celebrating the city’s new library! So my everyday life hasn’t been typical lately.
I can and do piggyback on my parents’ Christmas celebrations, showing up at their place for decadent feasts I don’t have to prepare. Therefore, I do “just a little” at my own house. We have a 6-foot fir tree as a Christmas tree, which we hauled into the house on the 15th and decorated on the 21st. We have some modest star-shaped outdoor lights that we leave on a timer for about 2 weeks. We exchange small gifts – each of us has a Christmas stocking. Rom and I set a price limit. (As an aside, we do more for our birthdays than for Christmas. Link has three gift occasions each year: birthday, Christmas, and our annual visit to Toronto. Rom and I also splurge a lot on ourselves on vacation travel).
So that would be my whole Christmas, and it would be plenty. Except that my extended family exchanges gifts with every person, and I just love giving gifts. Receiving is nice, but I like giving them much more! All the adults in the family say they don’t need or want anything, yet we still keep buying for everyone. Maybe we all like giving the best! It’s even more fun to find something the recipient didn’t know they wanted or needed – and the satisfaction of seeing that the gift is actually appreciated and won’t be immediately regifted! And that is based on how well we know each other and keep in touch about what we do and have and use. We gift a combination of new, thrifted and homemade stuff.
Christmas shopping/finding/making is required. I have a system that works for me. I buy stocking gifts all year when I am travelling – because a novel item from London or New York never goes amiss. I have some weekdays off work (due to working those evenings and Saturdays) so I can do boutique and book store shopping without the crowds. I stopped in at some craft fairs for local goods. I also took two days off work to have lunch and shop with my mom and sister.
This year was different because of the amount of food preparation I did. I attended 7 events at which I didn’t have to bring food, and 7 at which I did! That meant several hours cooking or baking for each. I took my time so I could enjoy it. Although my mom did remind me that my sister usually calls her and “puts in an order” for gingerbread cookies rather than making her own, so maybe I can get away with that next time, ha! So why did I attend 14 events? Six of them were for work and four for church, most in an “official” capacity, and every regular meeting was turned into a food event. The rest were personal get-togethers with family. In the midst of it all, Rom only had one event to attend, so we went out to dinner a couple of times, out to the symphony, and out for a board games night!
Meanwhile, Link is here for two weeks, staying at home, celebrating Christmas and visiting friends daily, so that adds another layer of fun, chaos and complexity!
Is it January yet?
Actually, Christmas itself was refreshing – just relaxing family meals. Now I can kick back and enjoy many days of winter cheer – with books and movies and the Quality Streets I’ve long awaited. I have 3 more days off work. I usually don’t go anywhere or do anything in January or February. Hibernation sounds perfect!
Hey, the last week of December also marks 3 years of An Exacting Life. I’ll be back before the New Year!