There’s something about Christmas that brings out the grouchiness in normally reasonable people. Over the years, I’ve figured out a few things. Grumbling loudly while standing in a postal line-up, doesn’t make the line go faster. If my cards don’t go out on time, my friends know they will maybe get a New Year’s greeting from me–or maybe, not at all. That has happened a few times over the decades and we’re still on good speaking terms. Baking is a foregone conclusion—bake too early and it gets eaten; bake too late and it gets eaten. I’ve given up on fruitcakes since not a lot of people eat them these days because of calories, diets, allergies and goodness knows what-all. As for presents, I collect small things for stocking stuffers throughout the year–little kids and even big kids have the most fun with this.
I found that most kids are quite brilliant with their high-tech toys, but give them something non-techie and they find it a challenge. I like puzzles—those metal or wooden things that you have to figure out the “key” to unlocking–usually a metal ring or a bar that looks deceptively easy to slip through or unloop or whatever, but doesn’t. I was watching the mental process of little faces and eventually bigger faces, frown and pout and do their best to solve the puzzle before anyone else. This may be construed as mental cruelty, but it really makes that old brain work. I think it burns off at least 2000 calories so that extra piece of shortbread or butter tart is actually feeding the brain.
Christmas is watching the little kids line-up to see Santa at the Mall. One little girl made me smile. She wasn’t more than 3 years old, wearing her pretty blue velvet dress and shiny party shoes. Her hair had a blue-velvet bow, pinning back some of her dark curls. She stood in front of Santa, a safe distance away and though he beckoned her closer, she shook her curls and said in a very clear voice, “No, thank you, I don’t want to sit on your lap.” Her mother stood anxiously to one side and said, “Just for a moment, Ellie. This photo will be for Nanna who’s too far away to come visit.” The little tot firmly shook her head. “No, Mommy. I’ll leave Santa some carrots for his reindeers, but I don’t want to sit on Santa’s lap.” Then she turned to walk away, but Santa’s voice stopped her. “Would you like to stand beside Santa so your Nanna would still have a photo of you?” The little girl paused to think about this. The end result was a delightful photo of Ellie, leaning slightly against Santa, with one tiny hand on his knee and smiling for her Nanna.
I think the “Spirit of Christmas” resides in most little kids. Their natural delight in decorated trees and the many decorated houses gives those around them, a bit of the Holiday feelings. Taking a group of little ones to see the display of gingerbread houses made the adults “see” it through children’s eyes. Little kids have this innocence and pure spontaneity of the simpler things. Perhaps, that’s what we adults should do at this time of the year—think like a kid, relax and enjoy.
The scent of baking at home is a joy, not a chore to be done because it’s Christmas. The gift of giving needn’t be a nightmare pf shopping–a gift of your time is the best gift of all. Love and laughter should be freely given to family and friends and those alone, throughout the year—and shouldn’t be only at this time because it’s that time of year. The importance of being together at Christmas seems harder to manage due to severe winter conditions in many areas as well as the costs of traveling. We are a nomadic group and it seems, for me at least, many of my friends and distant family travel in the summer, to be together. to share in making new memories.
Despite the worries over dinner or the anxiety over the “right” gift, just remember that all these weeks of sleepless nights lead up to one day which is gone in a blink of a twinkling eye. Before you know it, it begins all over again with a new year.