Scroll all the way down to read this blog; I have lots of pictures to fit each season and blog. I just posted the WSJ's annual Xmas Editorial, something that is a tradition, or was, in my home, too. My Dad first brought a copy of the paper home for me on Xmas Eve with this essay in it. I still have the paper put away. Holidays for me are about tradition; I tell my class, who wanted to do the holiday this year, there are two kinds of people in this world, those who celebrate life events, holidays, lives, landmarks, and occasions, and those who don't.
They were of the second group.
But, I don't feel Xmas as I used to, and I feel bad about that. I wait all year, and it is gone. Then it is January, when so much that is bad has happened. The Church tends to extend the holiday into Feb., and I like that. It should be celebrated at least through Epiphany, that word that also means moment of truth, coming to light, realization, or through the Old Xmas Eve and Xmas, January 6th and 7th. I'm all for the twelve days of Christmas, if only for the brightness in the darkness of the lights, and the warmth and hope of eternity the Xmas Tree, that gift from the old Celts, give us.
In my Celtic doll house, patterned after great mead halls and druid hiding places, I always placed tiny trees made of real evergreens to honor the old Celts and their customs. All the doll houses had and have their own trees, some elaborate, some not, and when I can, I put trees in every room, down to the little perfume bottles and soap angels in the bathroom.
I did theme trees, outside trees, big, small, cornhusk trees, my little dog Killer's "goochie" tree. But, the last few years, It has all eluded me. I mean to keep my ornaments; Dr. E's Doll Museum is as proud of its holiday collections as of any of its others, but that feeling, that mystical, warm feeling that glowed and sparkled with holiday glitter and Xmas light bulbs, has been gone.
I feel the stress, and instead of Goodwill towards men, I have shopping misadventures, though I admit the lines are not that bad this year. The last Xmas I felt it was on Xmas Even 2007, the last my mom was alive. We had a good holiday that year, and a good birthday for her, the 15th of Jan., two weeks before she died.
Each year, I want to forget it, and it would be easy. I work till the last minute, my husband's family has a strange take on the holiday, and who can blame them? They buried his 35 year old brother on Xmas Even almost 20 years ago. My family is far away and scattered, or long dead. My dad has never liked Xmas, and now, the good memories are overshadowed by bad ones. He allows no decorations or lights anymore, though we have boxes of them; my mom and I were our own Festival of Trees. There are no more trips to Marshall Fields, or Macy's. No West Coast Xmas Dinners from Race St. Fish and Poultry. There are few presents; we are overladen with bills at this point, and most are presents I've picked up over the course of the year, or at the day after sales. This is a tradition my aunt and mom started. We loved to do it, to extend the holiday this way, to get a bargain, and to keep the giddy secrets of what we had found. We loved baking sugar cookies, reindeer with raisin eyes and almond noses, baklava, honey cookies, oyster dressing and turkey, smoked chicken and pheasant some years, duck, and then shrimp and lobster on New Year's Eve.
My aunt taught me to save paper, to carefully fold it and remove tape, and wind ribbons and box bows to reuse. Her collection of Dennison stickers is legendary. I learned to love nativity sets from my mom's family, and to love roses at Xmas from those we spent out west.
I learned to love holly and evergreen, and my holly bushes are still a source of comfort and pride. I still put little trees in corners of my house only I will see, and even as I find more ornaments, I mourn those that must stay in their box yet another year for one reason or another. Silly, but there are lifetimes of memories, trips we took, souvenirs of Europe, heirlooms, handmade ornaments from my simple Kindergarten creations to the felt applique and crochet examples we made. My oldest date from the 18th century wax dolls and Santos, my next oldest from the 1850s, glass balls too delicate to hang, and many Victorian to 1920, and my favorites, the mid-century ornaments of my grandparents, and of my childhood.
I remember the special presents given me, and that I gave over the years, my mother's confession that one year, she was left at home and unwrapped and rewrapped everyone's presents out of curiosity. I remember Xmas 1972, the last my 30 year old Uncle was alive, and I still see him walking away from us at the airport, fringed vest and boots on, holding his cigarette in his hand, as he began his walk towards an untimely eternity,
So much to mourn, my mother and how she loved hiding presents, some for New Year, and wrapping everything, and the most amazing stockings she knitted, the cottonball santas we made one year, the little sled I still have that they pulled me on in 1961. I was a little tiny thing, but I remember.
Auntie Rose, and the magnificent china head doll she made, and the sled and reindeer on the table in front of me, and the holiday tables and parties she had ready for me after school, the red velvet dress with the lace top and cameo, so much to remember.
The living nativity at the Baptist Church, the puppet movies and Xmas Bible Stories in the paneled basement of our old church, now long gone. On Xmas morning, I opened a box of hand knitted doll sweaters, all sizes that Mom had made. I still have them, too, and marvel at how she found time. Her last gift to me was an unfinished doll sweater, and she used to take one of my dolls and redress it for me for Xmas.
We have our albums and slides now, and memories. My mom loved Christmas, because she spent so many sad ones in Europe during the war. She talked of three made of lashed cyprus branches, and of her last childhood Xmas at home in the states, when my grandpa took a box to the five and dime, a huge box, and told her and her sister and brothers to fill it with whatever they wanted. Then came the War, and an illfated trip to Europe, and famine and fear, until they could come home, and Christmas in what is till my grandpa's house, and my parents, was resplendent again. You could hardly walk for the presents. Till now, when there is nothing.
Sustain yourselves by doing kindness for others, but making natural ornaments, bu reusing those you haven't in several years, or asking your kids to make them for you. Take out the school projects and construction paper, bake cookies and make the candy. I try to make my mom's recipes, and to look at the cold, clear night with its stars, and to give to charity. Drop a dime or two into the Salvation Army red kettle. Wish the bell ringers a Merry Christmas. Listen to the Carols, and don't throw it all out Dec. 26th. Light a candle, honor Sta. Lucia, and find a tradition to bring you all together. God Bless us Everyone.
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