Regardless of what you call the celebration where you get together with friends and family and exchange gifts in this darkest part of the year, it seems like there’s a lot of it. I thought I cut back this year. I skipped several Yule rituals due to double booking, rather than trying to do two things at the same time. I declared that Santa didn’t need to come to a household were no one lived who was under the age of 18. I am not hosting any holiday parties, attending any of the parties for my December birthday friends and am going to ONE place for New Years.
Even with that I had 2 Yule rituals, 2 Christmas dinners (I was sou chef at both), Family gift night (we can’t decide if it’s Yule or Christmas) which also meant cooking dinner, and 2 holiday parties still to come. That’s 7 distinct events over the course of 2 weeks! I’m thinking that’s a lot even with cutting back.
When I grew up we had a long Christmas. It started Christmas eve, went through much of the night and started up again after a long winter’s nap with Santa first thing in the morning. We’d finish up presents, get dressed and head to Grandma and Grandpa’s for Christmas dinner. 24 hours of Christmas. Really one long day, even if it took two. If there was a New Years event at all it was a small party (3 couples) just for grown-ups or being allowed to stay up and watch Dick Clark until the ball fell.
Depending on the weather we might travel to my other Grandma’s but that could wait until the following week or even until the February thaw. That visit wasn’t really any different than any other visit to Grandma’s. There was no special event that distinguished it as Christmas, except a small present exchange. We usually got handmaid knit slippers or mittens.
A busy Christmas season meant getting outside to go sledding or skiing. It meant getting to go to the movies. It meant ice skating and cookies and hot cocoa. The ‘busy’ part of the season was from Thanksgiving on when all the baking was going on, not during the actual holiday.
My children, who are 18 and 23, have never had a holiday season that didn’t involve multiple events at multiple households. Their father and I were divorced when the youngest was 2. That meant holidays at 2 households, even though we often continued to double up so Dad would stop by Christmas morning and I would go to his parents for dinner. Practicing a different religious tradition than our parents also meant that we had Yule and Christmas.
To throw a wrench into the works, or maybe an odd spice like tamarind, my son has special needs. He had a caregiver who was with us from the time he was 3 until adulthood. She’s like a second Mom to him, and her family and ours have grown very close over the years. When they were little, we’d pack all the kids (hers and mine) up into the van and take them all downtown to see Santa. As her kids are now as grown as mine, we’ve skipped the holiday exchange there as well. Incidentally, they are Muslims.
I have no idea what kind of holiday traditions my children will develop as adults. Will my son collect invitations to everyone’s party and go to as many as he can? Will my daughter decide that she wants family traditions and invite (or uninvite) the rest of us to join her? Will they both continue to attempt to satisfy everyone’s traditions adding more and more events to their celebrations?
I know that many of their peers will face similar problems. We have raised a generation that has multiple families, and that considers their chosen families to be just as important. I am grateful that, so far, pretty much everyone gets along. There is no reason to exclude a family member just because they can’t be in the same room with someone else. My ex-husband’s family is not so fortunate. From what I see and hear, the ‘who doesn’t get to come’ scenario seems more common.
So as hectic or as lonely as you may find yourself this holiday season, I would encourage you to try and play nice. Play up the love and understanding, the peace on earth. Because the first place to start with peace on earth is in our own households.