Friday, December 03, 2010

Thoughts on Christmas

Christmas is a funny time. Not funny haha, but strange.

I love the idea of abundant food, cozy and warm, bright shiny lights, snow, the smell of pine, ornaments, candles, a fire, inspiring church services, Christmas carols, a creche, happy children and one big happy family. I love it all. I love shopping and cooking and thinking about presents for my friends and family, I love buying (we all know that.) I like less receiving, but I like buying for myself (who doesn't?)

That's it, I love the idea of Christmas. Eat, pray, love. It's the reality that I am not too fond of. I'm sorry. I have to be honest. Christmas is just wildly stressful and I dream of the moment when I can actually have a life where I am able to enjoy the holidays and not dread the monumental task of traveling overseas, working up until the final hour, sleeping in a strange bed, leaving my dogs behind, rushing, fearing bad weather, feeling un-entitled and guilty, burntout and disappointed. Each year I try to manage my expectations and this year for example, I am again very excited about the idea of the upcoming holidays.

Here's what I have going on. Between now and December 8th I am an absolutely crazy maniac, packing cartons, managing family life with 2 teenagers and 2 dogs, trying to see friends and loved ones, packing suitcases, dealing with Basic French and pre-holiday retail madness, writing my blog, answering emails, twittering, facebooking and taking HD festive holiday videos. The 7th I drive Clementine to the country where she will board with all her Weimeraner pals at a cost of 16 euros per day. I can't move the car on the 8th because it is Les Fetes des Lumieres here, the absolute busiest day of the year in Lyon when no one can park and all the roads are blocked off. Hundreds of thousands of people descend on Lyon for a week of illuminated frenzy. The 9th we leave from Lyon, fly to Paris, arrive at JFK at 9:15pm, drive to Red Hook, and then the fun begins around midnight! This is the holidays.

God bless Barb and Barb, who welcome me, now that I don't own a house in the Hudson Valley, into their lovely amazingly cozy and fabulously festively decorated home, a place that feels like home to me, the way home should feel. You can paddle around in your pjs and slippers, mumble to each other in the morning until the coffee kicks in, then go independently your own way during the day only to regroup at the end of the day for a home-cooked meal by chef Bob. It truly does not get any better than this!

I will be in Red Hook for 4 whirlwind days preparing for the Brooklyn Flea Holiday Market "Gifted"  and trying to fit in visits with all my friends, not to mention numerous doctor's appointments. The show goes from the 15th until the night of the 22nd, or at least that is when I pack up my stuff, race back to Red Hook, unload the van, pack my bags and hightail it to Bucks County, PA to see my parents. Am I enjoying the holidays yet?

Let me pause. It is usually at about this time that I have a complete change of mind and a wave of grace passes through me. It is about now that I begin to be tired of all the spending and excesses that this holiday engenders. I hate to be Scrooge and kiss a good festive moment goodbye, but I must look at the big picture. At this time of year, I start worrying about the homeless people in my neighborhood. It's cold, they are outside all day, and Christmas is going to be an unfun day for them, like all the rest of the unfun days. I begin to pray for them and pray for peace in the world. I remind my girls how fortunate we really are, that getting stuff is nice, but a thoughtful gesture, however small, brings far greater joy to the world. So we bake cookies for the lovely old ladies in our building who thrill at the chance to share a lyonnaise story with us in the hallway as we dash away, dash away, dash away all. I try to smile more and say nice things to people who look lonely. I go to St. Martin D'ainay, the 13th century abbey next to my house, and cry for all the sadness in the world...then I feel better. The bells ring, the low golden sun bursts through the cool gray clouds.

Christmas, for me, is love, pray, eat {in that order}. . . and on this 3rd of December, 22 days BC, I want to remember why I am here on this earth and embrace the true Christmas spirit! It's time to put on Ella Fitzgerald, hug my kids, be grateful, bake more cookies and sing!


Laura said...


Enjoyed your thoughts on the "Holidays". You always so accurately convey the mix of emotions we all share. The fact that you can see past the rush and craziness to find the real purpose
for our being here is truly inspirational. Thanks for sharing your life in Lyon this year, always appreciate your insights.

Best Holiday Wishes to you!

Laura C.
Santa Fe, NM

SloMo2639 said...

It's been a long time since I've seen you. Glad to hear you parents are still living in Bucks County. I am here is West Chester PA with my four children and husband. Hope you have a blessed holiday.
Merry Christmas, Mandy Weir Buoni

north pal said...

you know that your idea about christmas if absolutley correct. love,pray,eat. we all have what we need and some things that we desire. each year i try to make christmas easier in preparations. i want to apprciate and cherish that time of the year. not to cram in presents(don't get me wrong,i love little gifts just like everyone else.)keep it simple. as you say, not everyone has a roof over their heads or food to eat when we want it. do not take anything for granted and that will make you better off.Bestest,Denise

Auntie Bliss said...

I like you already!
My sentiments exactly on Christmas.
Hope yours is Merry :)

kansasrose said...

Love your honesty. Christmas is indeed a jumble of so much emotion and energy, when it should be distilled to loving, giving, and as you said praying and eating. Thanks for giving a glimpse into your refreshingly honest, lovely life, and the ups and downs we all have to navigate.