This season, this year, is a quiet time for me.
Work is at a slower pace, with many folks away for Christmas.
My children are grown, so the frenzy to have all decorations in place, all traditions in play and “enough” under the tree is no longer a part of Christmas.
There was a time when we added, each year, to our collection of mismatched, hand-made ornaments, balanced with an ever growing collection of tiny baskets, tied onto the branches with red ribbons. Each basket held a small gift, or a bit of Christmas candy. Santa Claus figurines in ever-growing numbers were displayed in front of the books on their shelves. The nativity set was given a place of honor on the old army trunk, which was draped with the Christmas-colored granny-square afghan. A trio of musical angels sat on the kitchen counter; rings of brass bells strung on bright yarn were hung from each door knob; Christmas cards were hung for display.
There was a time when I felt it was absolutely necessary to have a big pot of chicken and stars soup simmering on the stove on the evening we decorated the Christmas tree. The “stars” were cut with a small cookie cutter from pasta dough. A glazed ham had to be prepared on Christmas Eve, just as my mother always had, with left-overs put out in case Santa Claus wanted a sandwich to sustain him on his long night, and ham slices to accompany sweet bread on Christmas morning. The bread was a complicated, scalded milk, butter and sugar recipe with multiple risings. I shaped one half of the dough into a Christmas tree shape. The other half, I rolled out and cut out with my doughnut cutter…and one star. I shingled the base with overlapping rings of dough, then filled each center with preserves. Apple, blackberry and cherry, for the colors they presented. The little circles – doughnut holes – were each dipped in beaten egg white, then course sugar, and arranged on the tree. The star was placed on top. The entire thing was given an egg wash, covered and place in the refrigerator overnight, taken out to rise and bake on Christmas morning.
Christmas Eve, in addition to all the food preparation, was putting finishing touches on home-made presents and last minute gift wrapping.
I loved it all, every crazy-making moment of it, and sometimes I madly miss those days.
Often, though, I find I relish the calmer, more peaceful holidays that punctuate my life today.
I brought gifts down to one daughter and grandson when I went away two weeks ago.
I was late with making decisions, shopping, wrapping, packaging and sending for my other daughter’s growing family…at this point, no matter what, their gifts will arrive late and I am amazingly calm about that, too.
Thinking I still had a stack left over from last year, I didn’t get Christmas cards purchased this year, so that’s another chore that has been set aside. I think I’ll write January letters instead.
I made cookies for a holiday fund-raiser, and doughnuts to bring to work. I’ll make something to contribute to tomorrow’s Christmas dinner, and that’s it for my holiday baking.
This year, I won’t travel for Christmas, except – in the evening – the four miles to Aunt Katie’s house, to have chicken dinner with her.
I’ll take the dogs out in the snow. Last year, they wore red bows for their Christmas walk, which made me smile all the way down the road.
There is time for reflection, for planning, for setting good intentions.
This is a good Christmas.
Whatever shape your holiday takes this year, I hope yours is good, too.