October…. October… how I love thee October.
Leaves of red and gold coat the streets, Starbucks is serving PSL’s and the bakeries are filled with the succulent sweet scent of cinnamon and sultanas, in an imminent promise of Thanksgiving, Winter & Christmas and all of the beauty and joy those things bring. We have seen the memes, the jokes and jests… there are those who loathe the early onset of Christmas madness and those who cherish the preemptive preparations of the most majestic celebration of the year. If I have to choose one, I will proudly admit that I am part of the latter group, but I am not that far gone as to start hanging my decorations… just yet. 😉
I would like to take some time to explain why I find this particular time of year so magical and why I can not wait to get this show on the road. Now, what needs to be said right away is that I am not religious; as such Christmas has no religious significance to me what so ever, however, I was raised with the mythos of Christmas. (No offence is meant here, this is just how I see things.) I love the legend of the three kings, the heavenly star and the special baby boy, as well as the origin stories of Santa Claus & St. Nicolas, from the tales of the saint to the likeness with Father Odin, of the Norse peoples, who rode a horse drawn sleigh across the sky at the time of the winter solstice to visit his followers on earth…. this is what drives my fascination with Christmas.
At the core of it all, are my sweet and loving parents. They have instilled a love for Christmas in me that is almost insatiable and I sincerely believe that it is focussed on all the right things; togetherness, bringing joy to others, love and good faith for a happy new year.
First, my parents always made Christmas about others, even as a child I basked in the fun that my mother had while selecting presents, big and small. To this very day, she chooses every single gift with great care and forethought, from the big ticket-have-been-begging-for-it-all-year kinds of gifts, all the way down to the funny and fluffy pair of socks that represent something significant, that shine in their role as stocking stuffer. She writes her Christmas cards early and sends them so that they reach family in even the most distant corners of the world on time, and always has a token of good spirit for everyone, even if its just a wee tin of her famous mince pies. *drool*
My Dad makes the magic happen. He always picks the most beautiful tree he can find and sets it up with great care and pride. He tells us of Christmas when he was little, as we count our lucky stars for the luxury of having electric lights to put on it, rather than risking real candles. He sets up the traditional nativity scene every year without fail, since this is a tradition he learned from his father, but it’s different every time. With a hand build stable one year, encased in a sparkling miniature night sky another… I think the scene has even been on a beach once… hahahahaha
We cook together, usually something special every weekend in December, for the German tradition of Advent, and goodness knows there is always enough room for a few extra people at our table. Where others make Christmas an immediate family only kind of affair, my parents go to great lengths to make sure that no one in their circle is alone at Christmas. Whether they are long time family friends who just happen to be alone this year, or new acquaintances who had recently moved into the neighbourhood whose family lives far away, no one should be alone at this very special time of year and so there is always someone extra at our table in December.
(Not to mention we try our very best to go out and do something special for the community we are living in at Christmas… we go to sing at the local homeless shelter and help serve up dinners, or we entertain the elderly at the care home or go to a Children’s hospital and do some carols with the kids and their families.)
Most noteworthy I find, is that my folks never ever had the “Santa” talk with me; I am 24 years old and I am already looking forward to writing my Santa letter and giving it to my Daddy to burn in the fireplace so that it can get to the North Pole. I think I must have been around 8 or 9 years old when I snuck downstairs one winters night to ask my parents something, however when I entered the room (they couldn’t see me from the door) I saw that they were busily wrapping presents. Having always been a lover of surprises (and absolutely hating the thought of upsetting my parents), I quietly snuck back out of the room, unseen. On Christmas morning I noticed that Santa’s wrapping paper looked very much like the paper my parents used, and so I suspected that maybe the kids at school might have been right after all… but the milk had been drunk, and the cookies gobbled right along with the carrots I had left out for Rudolf, and so it happened every year thereafter. The realization never spoiled the magic for me, on the contrary, it just increased the awe that I had for my parents, knowing that no matter how good or bad the year had been, they always pulled off this magnificent kind of magic at Christmas time for my brothers and me, and I couldn’t help but be even more grateful for every single gift, and more appreciative of every single ounce of magic created. Even now. my youngest brother (aged 14) and I, still watch the NORAD Santa Tracker on the Computer, before setting out the milk and cookies and scooting off to bed before Santa reaches our location; in the morning, they will have been enjoyed, with a messy napkin lying next to the empty plate and glass, while hoof prints in the snow leading away from where (obviously) Rudolf had enjoyed his carrots…. although I don’t know how that’s going to play out with there not usually being snow in Ireland… hmmm
The only difference? Now I get up at about 3 am myself, and sneak to the tree where I myself add the presents that Santa has brought for my parents, along with placing all of the family stockings. That is a tradition that I have taken on with joy and great pride.
This enthusiasm for the Spirit of Christmas, has caused us to kind of take it upon ourselves to bring joy to those around us as well, and so we have been honoured to the start off the Christmas Season for many of our friends over the last 10 years, with a tradition that my Dad started in our house called “Feuerzangenbowle”. (<-I’ll just leave that link there for you to explore.) We would focus the first party of the Christmas Season around this beverage/procedure, usually at the end of November or on the first weekend of December, with my Dad brewing the magical brew (which takes quite some time) at the living room table, while all of our assembled friends and family would take turns, by the random passing of a Santa-hat, to share either a song, a poem or a tale of Christmas’ gone by of their choosing with the assembled group. There was always laughter, lots of singing and some occasional shared tears. However, the evening was always magical and it really started Christmas on the right note… in the company of the best possible friends and acquaintances with whom you have shared your year, and would like to share the next one with as well. I will probably describe this fantastic event in more detailed in a separate post.
Of course this event wants to be decorated for and generally prepared, which brings me to another lengthy preparation process of the season. There are six people in my household, and so far I have been making annual advent calendars for three of them (my two brothers and my sister in law); if I have the courage I might just attempt to make one for everyone this year… As you can imagine, this means planing for, purchasing, organizing, individually wrapping and assembling 72 presents before November 30th, in time for the first of December, which would double to 144 if I made one for my parents and hubby as well… Do you think I can make it?
This requires time and creativity, but I also want to savour and enjoy the process, which brings me back to the reason for writing this post in the first place…. come October, I can not help but start to get excited, because I finally need to get started on my advent calendars, drafting invitations and planning food for the Feuerzangenbowle, and planing which cards and presents need to be sent where and when… if I don’t ship those things in time, they will not reach my loved ones in Canada, Japan and Australia; can’t have that!
With so much to do, and so much happiness to look forward to over the next three months, can yo really blame me for getting excited a little early?
I won’t start playing my Xmas music (out loud) until at least November 20th though, I promise. 😉
Whatever you celebrate at this time of year, whenever and with whomever that might be, I hope you have as much fun with it as I do!
Take care. xoxo
p.s.: Here’s a wee video I made about our Christmas preparations away from home for the first time ever, last year. xoxo