Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Holiday Round Up

hedgehog measuring cups-a present from my sister
a picture of grandma 
Our Christmas was a little nontraditional this year as my dad worked Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and my sister spent the time with her fiance's family. We did not celebrate the holiday fully until this evening. For those of us left behind, comfort was found in some Christmas movies (Love, Actually, White Christmas, The Family Stone) and finger foods ("Nothing says holidays like a cheese log." ~ Ellen DeGeneres).

One of the benefits of pushing Christmas later is that we actually did get a white one. We are all snowed in tonight up on the hill with about six or seven inches laying outside and few plows in sight. It was a peaceful holiday (Retraction: As I typed this last sentence, my dad started playing loud film clips on his iPad and my sister hollered to my other sister across the house. I spoke too soon. Between the iPad, random bursts of eardrum busting singing, French language practice, and howling dogs, there are no silent nights here). Despite the decibel level, we did some pleasant reminiscing, exchanged lovely gifts, and ate a Christmas goose. 

Christmas Brunch Fruit Salad (before Dad headed to work):
mangoes, blueberries, pomegranate seeds with a squirt of fresh lime juice
It was a nice Christmas. Not a perfect Christmas. The weird timing and one member of the family splitting the holiday for the first year was a little disconcerting. It didn't seem like an ideal Christmas and my discomfort with our Christmas not being absolutely perfect has been...discomforting.

Often, we build up our idea of what we think Christmas "should" be. Lovely photos on Pinterest, inspiring blogs, magazine articles, favorite holiday movies, cheesy made-for-TV movies, even Facebook posts-all of these sources send us the message that Christmas should be a magical, picturesque portrait of a family gathered together in peaceful perfection. This idea sets us up for disaster. 

When we expect a flawless holiday, even a slight deviation from this ideal makes us feel that we have failed (and worse, that everyone else has succeeded at the holiday and we should have been able to too). In reality, bad weather ruins travel plans, people are late, the flu strikes, the same problematic family dynamics persist, the oven won't get over 350 degrees, the dog brings down the Christmas tree, and people get tired, overstimulated, and grumpy. 

Christmas has a ridiculous anticipatory tradition. For at least a month (and even longer in the retail world), we prepare materially and mentally for the big day. That's right, a whole month for just one day. And into that day we pour all our expectations for gift giving and receiving, family behavior, entertaining and meals, and general cheer and joy. We want the full Christmas splendor: the favorite music, the twinkling lights, the perfect meals, and a full house of wonderfully behaved people. 

a holiday decoration that won't come down in January
Christmas lights in a tall blue Mason jar
Whew! I think that is far too much pressure on one day that has so much room for error. Something that is not ideal will occur during a Christmas in your life: a family fight, cancelled travel plans, stomach bugs, fussy children, etc. It's going to happen. Christmas being imperfect is far more statistically probable than Christmas being perfect. It's reality. It's life. 

I'm not a Grinch and I didn't have a bad Christmas. However, I do place too much importance on Christmas being a "perfect" experience and that often leaves me feeling fretful by the end of the day, like I didn't grasp the moment and transcend all the roadblocks to reach that postcard holiday. I think that if I had just tried harder, I could make myself and the holiday absolutely sublime and magical. 

In the end, this kind of perfection is too tall an order to fit down the chimney. In the end, it isn't that everyone and everything was perfect. In the end, what matters is that we tried. We loved each other enough, we loved this holiday and what it stands for enough to give it our best (best does not equal perfect). It will never be a perfect Christmas (unless you are a freak of nature, get incredibly lucky, or have the producers from The Hills setting up your life); accepting this gives more mental space to just enjoy Christmas for what it is-a nice window of time to get along with others as well as you can, a chance to say, "You are my family and/or friends and that means something to me." And if it doesn't work out, if your Christmas is a total disaster, you still have 364 days to cook, bake, give gifts, travel, celebrate, and interact with friends and family. 

So grab some grog, light up the crackling fire movie on Netflix, and smile a little at the people around you. Perfection isn't attainable, but the middle can be pretty nice too. 

The Christmas Goose

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