Joy to the Messiness of Christmas

christmas morning!

christmas morning! (Photo credit: Nikki McLeod)


“One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day.
Don’t clean it up too quickly.” ~ Andy Rooney

 Christmas is meant to be messy—it is a combination of all those things that make it slightly chaotic, happily disordered, and a bit muddled. There are those who may succeed in putting order in the holiday season—with napkins folded in reindeer shapes, festive name plates creatively crowning every plate, and a gourmet dinner cooked flawlessly for shining happy faces around the dining room table. Impeccable manners are displayed and the conversation is articulate, with no hint of religion, politics, or money.

          Beautifully wrapped gifts are opened carefully, the paper whisked away before it hits the floor, and expressions of gratitude greet every well-chosen present. Tasteful Christmas sweaters are worn with flare, and well-mannered children sit quietly awaiting their turn to open the bounty provided by Santa.

          …………………..Okay, now for a little reality. What I have described above may have happened on the Christmas shows carefully orchestrated in days of yore, (think Bing Crosby Christmas specials) and Martha Stewart may still bring some order to the holidays (though we really don’t know—Christmas Day may be one of havoc, turmoil and mayhem at her house too) but as for me and mine—we start out carefully unwrapping our gifts, but it soon becomes a frenzy of paper torn off with abandon, and bows tossed aside to reveal the prize of the day. Later we are left scrambling to find instructions and batteries among the tissue paper and flotsam and jetsam of Christmas unwrapped.

          I strive to produce a gourmet meal (having watched one too many shows on the Food Network), but we are all satisfied with what is eventually the outcome of my labours—some years it is overcooked prime rib, others a butchered turkey (this year I am going to use an electric knife bestowed on me by a friend—so hopefully it will not look like I wrestled with the meat). Generally the meal tastes pretty good and it is always saved by dessert. Those who gather around my table are generally well-mannered, but voices do get raised in passion, and perhaps a wine glass gets knocked over (usually by me as I am a klutz). But I contend that it is the “mess” of Christmas that makes it festive; it is the confusion and jumble and tangle of the whole event that is what makes memories.

          Christmas is not meant to be perfect—after all it is celebrated by people, and who do you know that is perfect? I love the noise of happy kids—their exuberance and joy at a holiday they can barely believe is happening makes one rethink what is important. I always have the sugarplum of a perfect Christmas dancing in my head, stress out to make sure that everything is impeccable–then I come to the realization that the Christmas we celebrate this year will be just right—despite arguments, unwanted presents, and overcooked meat. Life has its peccadilloes and so does Christmas.

         

June and Ward Cleaver (Barbara Billingsley and...

June and Ward Cleaver (Barbara Billingsley and Hugh Beaumont). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thinking that Christmas will not suffer from some turmoil is unrealistic—remember even June and Ward Cleaver had to put up with Beaver’s antics and Eddie’s caustic charm. Christmas does not solve the world’s problems per se, but for a few moments it can put them on hold and we can bask in the glow of our Christmas trees, the warmth of our families, and enjoy all the special foods and drinks and presents that help make the season merry.

          My fervent wish for all of you is that you can take some time out this Christmas to enjoy what the season has to offer. I leave you with these wise words from W.J. Tucker (my addition is in brackets):

          “For centuries men (and women) have kept an appointment with Christmas. Christmas means fellowship, feasting, giving and receiving, a time of good cheer, home.” ~ from Pulpit Preaching

          Merry Christmas and Happy New Year ~ may you find joy in this holiday season!

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Christmas Spirit Captured

christmas spirit

christmas spirit (Photo credit: spapax)

The wing chair has been moved from its usual spot to clear a space for the Christmas tree. I have vacuumed the sacred spot and ruined the lives of a few spiders and dust bunnies. Someone is taking a nap on the couch, and son number two is “just checking his emails” so I await a rested husband and an up to date son to help me deck my halls.

I am determined to get the tree up today. It is long past due according to my inner holiday calendar but unexpected  life events sometime takes precedence. It is important to get the tree up, to ensconce it in lights, and trim it in ornaments that have been nestled in their boxes for lo these eleven months.

I have decorated many a Christmas tree and no longer fuss about hiding the cords on the lights as I know that once it is trimmed that will not matter. I cannot wait to bask in just the glow of the tree lights  tonight  and dream about Christmases past and enjoy Christmas present. Christmas future I will leave to take care of itself.

I have now caught the Christmas spirit. She was being a bit slippery this year, but I finally struggled with the demonic powers that were scaring her away and won. My victory, though hard won is intact and I am ready for whatever the holiday season throws my way.

christmas paint

(Photo credit: cassie_bedfordgolf)

Did you have any trouble summoning your Christmas spirit this year?

Let’s get this party started!

1st December 2013, Sunday, Was that a snowflak...

1st December 2013, Sunday (Photo credit: tomylees)

I am providing you with a rare opportunity ~ a sneak peek into this week’s  newspaper column which is not due until tomorrow morning. As this is the first day of December I thought it was apropos. This is not hot off the presses–it is a look at something before it even meets the presses:     

            December really creeps up on us. It is not like we do not know that it is coming. But I am always a bit unprepared for this most magical time of the year. It comes directly after stealthy November, so why am I so surprised that there are now just a few weeks before Christmas instead of months?  I believe that my ability to live in denial gets me through November, but when December skulks out of the shadows and jingles its bells even I cannot deny that I should get in gear.

            So what gets you into the Christmas spirit? I devour Christmas magazines and cookbooks but seldom glean anything of import from them. I am not particularly crafty though for years I pretended—but now I just let the authentic me loose, and authentic me is not all that crafty.  I enjoy a bit of cutting and pasting but that gets old after a while and does not really get one much past making  Christmas cards, paper snowflakes, or the occasional bookmark. I think that my crafting phase has passed and though it was short-lived I did give it the “old college try” and if you happened to be the recipient of my craftiness, rest easy that you will not have to admire my “all thumbs” creations in the future.

          

English: A bauble on a Christmas tree.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  I do have a bit of a decorating bent, but find that I am thinking about the fact that what I gloriously decorate my home with will have to be taken down in about a month—so of late I tend to decorate with statement  pieces rather than all the small things I have collected over the years. The only place I break this rule now is the Christmas tree—mine drips with nostalgic tissue paper bells, popsicle stick sleds, pipe cleaner snowmen, and pinecones decorated with lots and lots of glitter. Sure my kids are in their twenties now—and are no longer producing these little works of art—but I keep them stashed safely away and bring them out every year reliving their childhoods when innocent belief reigned supreme.

            I remember those days of innocent belief, when I was not the purveyor of all things Christmas but an innocent and receptive beneficiary. As a kid, I could not believe that there could be a thing so wondrous as Christmas. My mother can be blamed in large part for this, as she created the best Christmases ever.  I remember going to my cousin’s house one Christmas and she showed me all the clothes she got and I recall thinking how horrible—mind you she was four years older than I, so at 13 she was very happy to get clothes, but at nine years of age I could not imagine worse presents. I told my mom then that I was really glad that Santa had not left me clothes. Dolls and books, games and toys were more my speed at that age—and Santa always made sure there was plenty to unwrap under our tree.

            At our house, we did not have the tradition of each person unwrapping one present at a time while the others in the family looked on—and though I now think it is a lovely way to celebrate—I liked the way we were each given a present and we all opened them at once. It added to the confusion and chaos of Christmas morning—which is one of its most attractive attributes to me. We were a family of six—mom and dad and two boys and two girls—and the mayhem was all part of the fun.

        

Charlie Brown Christmas Tree Shopping

Charlie Brown Christmas Tree  (Photo credit: K!T)

    Christmas past seems to play a large part of Christmas present. We remember old traditions and we keep them even if just in our memories. Some are translated to fit today; and others are kept intact to be celebrated over and over again. I have a rather bedraggled Christmas tree that my kids do not want me to get rid of because it is the one they remember from their childhoods. So every year we get it out and dress it to the nines, and it is transformed from a Charlie Brown Christmas tree to the belle of the Christmas ball. 

            So as this month of December gets started and we embrace it and all that it celebrates, we will enjoy the new season it heralds. Winter is made so much more palatable by the cheer imparted by the holiday season.

            In the immortal words of Pink: (Let’s) “Get this party started right now.”

ARE YOU READY FOR CHRISTMAS?

Happy Christmas Eve!

Nativity scene at Sacred Heart Catholic Church...

Nativity scene. The reason for the season!  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Woke up at 3. Read the final chapters of a book I needed to finish. Got up at 4 and decided to finally bake my Christmas cookies and bars. My 21 year old son who has odd sleeping habits was awake, so he helped me, making the chore much more jolly. I put on a  little Christmas music and we measured and mixed and dotted the thumbprint cookies with seedless raspberry jam, added the chocolate chips to my never fail Toffee Bars, and put a frozen pizza in for my son’s breakfast.

By my very nature, I do not like to be in the kitchen for more than 30 minutes at a time–but at this time of year I make a little more of an effort. I still have some chocolate caramel fudge to make, and am having a ham for Christmas Eve and prime rib for Christmas Day, and…… a brunch for my other son and his girlfriend tomorrow morning (something I just found out about–but my husband has volunteered to make pancakes–so that with some bacon and fried ham {leftover from tonight} and a little fruit should cover it). I think I spend more time in the kitchen at Christmas then I do for the whole rest of the year. I am trying to look upon this as not a chore, but as making memories ~ it makes the tasks so much easier.

I still have all my presents to wrap, but I think most of them will get the wrapped in tissue and bag treatment, with a few officially wrapped just so people can tear a little wrapping paper off for good measure. I may even throw on a bow or two.

Yesterday, I cleaned up the office, which is also my dining room and found the top of the table. I cannot believe how nice it is in this room now. It was well worth the effort. Now we can have our Christmas feasts at a table rather than on our laps.

I am busy–but who isn’t? My food will be simple, my gifts will be wrapped (somehow in some way), the stockings will be stuffed, and I will relax with my favourite glass of rose (my newfound favourite drink–silky on the tongue with plummy overtones and like heaven with dark chocolate.)

Reprise album The Soupy Sales Show (1961).

Reprise album The Soupy Sales Show (1961). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A random Christmas Eve memory or two:

1.I remember when I was a kid there was a local program called the Soupy Sales Show and on Christmas Eve Soupy kept us updated on where Santa’s sleigh was in relation to where we lived, so we could get to bed and not catch the big Elf putting presents under our tree. I still remember watching the program with great concentration–I did not want to do anything that might deter the big guy from coming to my house.

2. Another Christmas Eve, when I was about eight, I heard footsteps on the roof over my bedroom and then jingle bells, and my sister and I were sure Santa was at our house. We squeezed our eyes shut and held our breath–we did not want Santa to know we were still awake. Why we did not venture out to find him in our living room I will never know–I think we were indoctrinated to believe that Santa would not leave us anything if we caught him. Found out later that our big brothers had climbed on the roof over our bedroom to keep the magic alive for us. And they did. I still believe in Santa Claus.

Do  you still believe in Santa?

A Kernel of Magic

Father Christmas

Father Christmas (Photo credit: Scottwdw)

“No matter how tired and cranky, how jaded or cynical, how utterly tiresome Christmas becomes, there is always a kernel of magic at its core, isn’t there?” – Will Ferguson

The magic at the core of Christmas is what makes the season enchanting. Whether it is the wonder of the original Christmas story, our family traditions that lighten up the dark days, or even belief in that jolly old elf—the feeling that the season elicits is magical.

Canadian author, Will Ferguson, wrote a charming little memoir called “Coal Dust Kisses”, which harkens to his childhood days. He and the other children brought up around the Cape Breton coal mines had proof positive that Santa had visited their houses on Christmas Eve. The proof was not in the presents beneath the tree, but in a smudge of coal dust on their foreheads.

Coal mining

Coal mining (Photo credit: Toban Black)

Ferguson’s grandfather worked in the mines before he found a job at the Canadian National Railroad; but Ferguson himself  never saw the inside of a mine shaft, and in his words: “God willing, never would”. Born in Cape Breton, he became part of a tradition that comes from being in a coal mining area. It was Father Christmas that Ferguson’s father waited for on Christmas Eve; and on Christmas morning he had evidence that the gentleman “had tiptoed through houses, late at night, covered in soot…”  He “would stop to kiss children on the forehead when they lay sleeping…” When the children awoke in the morning, there on their foreheads were “coal dust kisses.”

The author waited for Santa Claus who replaced Father Christmas over the years, but the tradition of “coal dust kisses” carried on. He remembers the “stampede of feet towards the bathroom mirror”  on Christmas morning, when he and his siblings crowded into the bathroom and “stared in awe and wonderment” at the smudge on their foreheads—providing the elusive proof positive that Santa Claus had left his calling card. This, he said was “a moment of magic” captured in countless yuletide photographs.

He has continued the tradition with his own family, taking the “Scottish coal-mining tradition…from Cape Breton to the northwest woods, from Ecuador to southern Japan, and back again to Canada.” Tradition, handed down from generation to generation travels easily. The jolly old elf takes his magic with him wherever he goes, or wherever we go.

The magic of Christmas belies the sometimes gaudy pomp and circumstance of commercialism (which we have to admit has its place and puts food on the table for many). Believing in something for the sake of believing without question does not seem to be a simple thing. We need proof, whether it be in “coal dust kisses” or something else that we can see, touch or feel.  Sometimes though, we have to just believe in the magic of Christmas and not dissect it until we no longer recognize its wonder.

So what proof do you have of the magic of Christmas? What is your “kernel” of Christmas magic?

A Blogcation

James Taylor at Christmas

Wikipedia

Just a little heads up:

I am taking a week off from blogging to concentrate on a number of things that need my attention–so while I will be responding to commenters today–I will not be seen or heard from much until December 1st. Enjoy this last week of November and see you back here next Saturday.

Note: Make a note in your calendar to come to my virtual Christmas Party on Saturday, December 15th.

Here is my Formal Invitation:

Virtual Christmas Party

Date: December 15th

Where: Virtually Here

Why: It Is Christmas!

Theme: Come as your favourite author or character in a book.

Co-host: Robin Coyle (she does not know this yet)

Bring: Your favourite appetizer from the 1970’s

Music Provided by: James Taylor and Rodents & Rebels

Special Entertainment: Margaret Atwood. She promises to be festive.

Requirement: Description of your author or character’s outfit, appetizer, and favourite song request from either James or R & R.

I will provide an update closer to the 15th. Idea stolen from Robin Coyle who threw a virtual Cocktail Party that was a raving success. You can wear your shoes in the house if they are clean. Reindeer socks will be provided at the door for those who need them.

See you in a little less than a week!

English: Author Margaret Atwood attends a read...

English: Author Margaret Atwood attends a reading  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

~ A Little Early Snappy, Happy Ever After or A Little Magic in the Air ~

Cover of "A Family Christmas"

Cover of A Family Christmas

Ever notice how Christmas comes at the right time of year? When it is at its darkest, and starting to get cold and dreary? Even without snow, Christmas lights brighten things up a bit. Last night we had a light shower of snow and it is gently snowing right now, adding a little frosting to the still warm ground. Just that right festive touch for getting into the spirit.

One of my favourite little Christmas ditties is “We Need A Little Christmas” by Jerry Herman–and these lines just seem to embody the season we are about to embark:

“For I’ve grown a little leaner,  Grown a little colder, Grown a little sadder, Grown a little older, And I need a little angel, Sitting on my shoulder, Need a little Christmas now.”

We seem to make Christmas into a hassle with endless lists of things to do to make it merry and bright, and sometimes lose out on the magic of the whole season.

I read an interview with Santa in the book, “A Family Christmas” compiled by Caroline Kennedy, and the word magic was used no less than six times in answer to various questions.

Asked how reindeer fly, the jolly elf said that they are fed a magic mixture of corn and oats that only grows near the North Pole.

Magic was also the one word answer he gave to the questions, “how do you fit down the chimney”, and “how do you get into a home that does not have a chimney”.

How does he fly around the world in one night? Santa says it takes “a combination of lots of practice, judicious use of time zones, and of course, a little magic.

And how does he know who has been naughty and who has been nice? You got it: Magic.

What is magic? I have a two part definition: it is the suspension of disbelief; and the belief that there are things that happen we cannot explain. (It could be argued that this is also the basis of faith—but that is a topic for another place and another time.)  The best dictionary definition I found, (among many) is that magic “is a supernatural power that makes impossible things happen.”

Right now, there is a group of people who want us to only believe in those things we can prove—Darwin is their main man, and they only want to deal in things that can be substantiated. I have no argument with these people—in fact I think it is easy to follow this dictum as it takes us out of the world of imagination, into a world of grounded thought.

At various times in my life, I too have wanted proof positive, but have come to the conclusion that it does not exist. I like to think that there are things that happen that there are no easy or worldly answers to.

I am not talking magic as in the world of potions and spells, enchantments and bewitchments. I am talking about magic as inexplicable and astonishing, miraculous and exquisite.

If reindeer do fly—it is magic. When Santa makes it down the chimney unscathed-it is magic. By the way, when he does get to

English: Santa Claus with a little girl Espera...

English: Santa Claus with a little girl: a magical moment (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

your house, he made it very clear in his interview that he likes all kinds of milk except buttermilk, and loves all kinds of cookies, but most especially Christmas cookies.

Santa’s  favourite colour is red (who knew?); he has hundreds and hundreds of elves; and can remember without hesitation the names of his reindeer. And yes, he does count Rudolph as one of his reindeer.

When asked how old he is, Santa replied: “As old as my tongue, and slightly older than my teeth.”

So there you have it, from the horse’s mouth so to speak. And what is it that Santa wants for Christmas? Without batting an eye he says:  “Peace on earth, goodwill towards all people.” Now where have we heard that before?

Do you believe in Magic?(Wasn’t that a title of a song from the 1960’s? The Barefoot Baroness  would know.)

Christmas: “Magic At Its Core”

English: Thomas Nast's most famous drawing, &q...

English: Thomas Nast’s most famous drawing, “Merry Old Santa Claus”, from the January 1, 1881 edition of Harper’s Weekly. Thomas Nast immortalized Santa Claus’ current look with an initial illustration in an 1863 issue of Harper’s Weekly, as part of a large illustration titled “A Christmas Furlough” in which Nast set aside his regular news and political coverage to do a Santa Claus drawing. The popularity of that image prompted him to create another illustration in 1881. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“No matter how tired and cranky, how jaded or cynical, how utterly tiresome Christmas becomes, there is always a kernel of magic at its core, isn’t there?” – Will Ferguson

The magic at the core of Christmas is what makes the season enchanting. Whether it is the wonder of the original Christmas story, our family traditions that lighten up the dark days, or even belief in that jolly old elf—the feeling that the season elicits is magical.

Canadian author, Will Ferguson wrote a charming little memoir called “Coal Dust Kisses”, which harkens back to his childhood days. He and the other children brought up around the Cape Breton coal mines had proof positive that Santa had visited their houses on Christmas Eve. The proof was not in the presents beneath the tree, but in a smudge of coal dust on their foreheads.

Ferguson’s grandfather had worked in the mines before he found a job at the Canadian National Railroad—but Ferguson himself said that he had never seen the inside of a mine shaft, and “God willing, never would”. Born in Cape Breton, he became part of a tradition that only comes from being in a coal mining area. He says that it only makes sense, “as any person—a miner say—who dealt with coal knows, if you spend time crawling through chimneys, you’re going to get covered in soot.”

It was Father Christmas that Ferguson’s father waited for on Christmas Eve. And on Christmas morning he had evidence that the gentleman “had tiptoed through houses, late at night, covered in soot…” He “would stop to kiss children on the forehead when they lay sleeping…” When the children awoke in the morning, there on their foreheads were “coal dust kisses.”

The author  waited for Santa Claus, who had replaced Father Christmas over the years, but the tradition of “coal dust kisses” carried forward to his generation. He remembers Christmas morning as “a stampede of feet towards the bathroom mirror” where he and his siblings crowded into the bathroom and “stared in awe and wonderment” at the smudge on their foreheads—providing the elusive proof positive that Santa Claus had left his calling card. This, he said was “a moment of magic” captured in countless yuletide photographs.

He has continued the tradition with his own family, taking the “Scottish coal-mining tradition…from Cape Breton to the northwest woods, from Ecuador to southern Japan, and back again to Canada.” Tradition, handed down from generation to generation travels the miles with no loss of meaning. The jolly old elf, Father Christmas, or the more modern day Santa Claus takes his magic with him wherever he goes, or as Ferguson’s story illustrates, wherever we go.

The magic of Christmas belies the sometimes gaudy pomp and circumstance of commercialism (which we have to admit has its place and puts food on the table for many). Believing in something for the sake of believing without question does not seem to be a simple thing. We need proof, whether it be in “coal dust kisses” or something else that we can see, touch or feel. I am guilty of this, and in many cases asking for verification is not a bad thing. But sometimes, we have to just believe in the magic of Christmas and not dissect it until we no longer recognize its wonder.

My wish for you this Christmas is to recapture the essence and spectacle of the season and enjoy “the quiet beauty of a peaceful holiday.” (a sentiment from one of my Christmas cards)