Thursday, December 28, 2006
So this is Christmas...
Growing up in Chile, Christmas (December as a whole) happened in the summer (which, come to think of it, I think it still does, at least for those south of the Equator). Typical Christmas presents for the first half of my life always included bathing suits, beach toys, beach towels, arm floaties. It was a little strange to see Santa on billboards and streetcorners in his North Pole red suit with white fur trim when it was 30 C outside - some ads tried to "summer-ize" Santa by giving him a red bathing suit instead; red swim shorts, still trimmed with white fur, and still topped with his traditional Santa hat, accompanied by his trademark black boots - but when you're a kid, and you don't questions eight flying reindeer traveling around the entire world exactly at midnight to give away free stuff to kids for no good reason, why would you question some funny fat man's fashion choices?
Transplanted to Texas, Christmas now happens in the winter. But now we're talking about Texas Winters - a week before Christmas I was walking into Target squinting at the sunlight, wearing flip-flops and a t-shirt, gleefully enjoying the 80 F weather. Coming from way south of the border, I hate it when people complain about this glorious weather around Christmastime, whining that "it doesn't feel like Christmas." Look, if you've always lived in Texas, then this is the weather you've always had, so what does Christmas feel like to you? But mainly my beef is that Christmas has never been cold for me, and I like the warm weather around this time. Partly because of the memories, but mostly because I hate cold weather no matter what the holiday (it's never bothered me that my birthday, which is in July, is no longer in the middle of winter).
My siblings and I would sing about White Christmases and Frosty the Snowman while eating popsicles barefoot in the backyard in eager childish anticipation of Christmas, even though we had never made a snowman in our entire lives. Why would we worry about the "white" missing from our Christmas? I guess it would have been nifty to be able to make our own Frosty, but we didn't have a magical hat so the lack of snowman-making snow was not a big deal anyway.
When my mom remarried, after eight (or so) years without a single date (to my knowledge), quite a few things changed within our family traditions. I don't know if the fact that I was already in college and out of the house made the transition easier or harder. Not being home as much (even though I was going to school in the same town - I guess I'm not the most dutiful daughter) meant that I didn't see the small, gradual changes, I just got slapped in the face by them when I did come home.
The Christmas traditions changed, adding the traditions of the step-family. I have, in the six (or so) years since the wedding, managed to come to terms with these additions. A variety if issues on my part made this quite a task, but this past Christmas was actually quite enjoyable. Which was a lot better than what I've cause in the past - hopefully this peace will develop into another new tradition.
This year, my mom started another tradition, which I also hope we keep, cheesy as it is. My step-sister's daughter, aged three and a half, has been going to church with my mom and step-dad and attending the Sunday School and Children's Church classes. The pastor's wife, who leads many of these things, stresses the fact that Christmas is Jesus's birthday, so my mom decided to bake a birthday cake for Jesus.
It sounded goofy when she first said it, but when we sat down, after a huge family dinner where we actually managed to fit the twelve (or so?) family members who were there around the table (made for eight), it didn't turn out to feel so goofy.
My mom's family sings three birthday songs - the traditional "Happy Birthday," followed by "Who is the Birthday Girl/Boy Today?" and, for the grand finale, "We Had a Very Lovely Time" (lyrics available upon request). This is one of the many traditions from my side of the family that the steps graciously added to their traditions without the whining and fussing that I did about their holiday traditions, by the way. As with every birthday, we started with "Happy Birthday" and sang all three songs. I don't know why, but singing those songs, listening to the words I've been rotely singing since I was able to form words, shone a new light on Christmas. It sounds so silly to bake a cake for Jesus, but that's what Christmas is. Instead of getting caught up in the shopping and buying, I'd much rather enjoy cake and ice cream.
I hope we keep the birthday cake tradition... even if I have to admit it's for me, not for the three-year-old.
This year, I tried once again to add a "family donation" to a charity, to keep the focus on giving instead of consuming. The idea didn't seem to catch on, and I didn't follow through with it either. The idea was for us to give money to donate, as a lump sum, to a charity on behalf of the whole family, instead of going through the stress and expense of buying presents for each other when we don't need any more stuff, really. This year, I told myself that even if nobody else did it, I'd do it anyway.
Here we are, December 28th, and I still have not even decided how much I'm going to give. I wish I could stick to my good intentions with slightly stronger conviction.
at 11:54 PM