Sunday, November 24, 2013

Turning Holidays Back Into Holy Days

I envision my family having amazing, memorable holiday traditions that strengthen our unity and give us a deep and lasting fellowship that lasts our whole lives.

Basically trying for some form of the above picture.

And then I remember that we won't ever have a Pinterest-worthy Thanksgiving spread because I do not have the time to sew tiny little turkey finger puppets from felt while cooking a 7 course meal from greens and root vegetables grown from my cottage garden and several plump geese shot down from the clouds by my dear husband, followed by arranging sixteen real-life cornucopias as table centerpieces among generous autumnal bouquets picked from our flowerbeds and from the meadow of wildflowers growing by the creek. 


I seriously want to wear this finger puppet.
On just one select finger.
And then hold my hand up proudly and show Martha what I did!

I mostly hope that our family traditions give my kids better holiday memories than some of mine growing up. I happen to remember picking up broken Christmas ornaments from the floor and trying to put them back on the flipped tree with a face full of hot tears. The tree got thrown to the ground by my dad because I called my sister a little bitty word that starts with a b and ends with an itch. Or the birthday when that same sister's beautiful pink heart-shaped cake, with a big red number 4 right on top, got flipped upside-down. I always get awkwardly sentimental about those days, especially when listening to "That Was the Worst Christmas Ever" by Sufjan Stevens. I get especially reminiscent at the lyrics, "Our father yells, throwing the gifts in the wood stove."

I also think back to what seemed then to be "good times," the years when I got so many presents and hauled them up to my room and then spent the rest of the day in a powdered-sugar cloud of gift obsession and fell into a hazy stupor later that day, or the next day, when the high of new toys ended and I crashed, right into a heap of candy wrappers and trinkets and junk. Yes, I do remember getting some great gifts for Christmas or my birthday. But a lot of the stuff was just unsatisfying. And I think it has something to do with our materialization of Holidays, when (not to be trite) we forget the "reason for the season". When we put so much focus on the material things, we forego the true happiness we should enjoy at special moments in our lives. I want my own children to remember not the things they received, but the joy they had spending time together as a family. The traditions I want us to engage in over the years need to be ones that focus on God, our unity with Him, with the Trinity, and with each other, not in presents that incite in us the divisive tendencies of obsession, protection, and hoarding of the things that are mine, MINE, ALLLL MINE!

When a child sees a mountain of gifts under the tree, their expectations are set so high that they are guaranteed to be disappointed.

"I give you the Griswold family Christmas tree...
Lotta sap in here! Mmmm... Looks great! Little full, lotta sap."

Sometimes we just expect too much out of holidays.
We set ourselves up for failure because our focus is on the wrong thing.

I want to have strong Catholic traditions with my children that bring us together as a family and bring us closer to God, not just for Thanksgiving or Advent or Christmas, but throughout the year. I'm focusing on just those holidays right now, for the obvious reason that I will probably go on a psychotic rampage and drive myself to drinking if I worry about too much at one time. Oh yeah, and because Thanksgiving is sort of coming up this week.


I've seen you watching me, Ziegen Bock. 
Trying to lure me in during long cranky afternoons, sent from Satan in an attempt to claim my soul. 
But as long as I'm breastfeeding, you have no power over me!

When Carolina weans, we'll talk.

Let's start with the fact that Thanksgiving has become Black Friday's Eve. The shady space between Black Friday and December 1st is Advent/A Black Hole. From the 1st until mid-December is Christmas Eve Eve, followed by a week of Pre-Christmas, then Christmas Eve (Take 2), then for a few hours it is Christmas, and by 7:30 pm on Christmas Day it's time to start thinking about what kind of sparkly stuff you can buy to wear for that New Year's party you're throwing and if you can find a deal for a good Deejay on Groupon. (Seriously, can you? Then you could spend more money on some Asti Spumante. Love that stuff.)

I don't really know how to get to the rainbow-land of perfect family traditions, if there even is such a place. And I don't really even want to get there, because I'm pretty sure Martha Stewart lives there alone in a tiny burrow with a family of brown mice.


We know you're in there somewhere.

But I'm going to start by approaching each holiday prayerfully and calmly. Repeat after me: CALMLY. CALMLY. calmly. I want to put the focus not on the decorations, or the clothes, or the music, or the gifts... not even on the food (which, let's be honest, will be extremely difficult!), but on our faith and how each special celebration with family is an opportunity to give thanks, to give to others, and to connect with one another.

Step One is just to make sure we attend mass together on those days. Simple, easy, done. There's obviously more to it than that, and I will get it all figured out, maybe even sometime before my children grow up and leave me. I'm working on reigning in my Christmas enthusiasm and doing more Advent devotions this year. I plan on putting up the tree but leaving it bare until Christmas Eve, and I am definitely contemplating the idea of not feeding into all the Santa hype with Lenny. Maybe even separating the gifts from Christmas Day altogether. Chris is nowhere near being on board with that one so we'll see. And I plan on finding a way to drag our Christmas celebrations out all the way until the Epiphany so that one of our traditions can be reenacting "The Twelve Days of Christmas" because I am ALL about getting me some French hens and some dancing ladies. (Just kidding, that literally sounds like the worst tradition ever.) Or more realistically, so that we can fully appreciate the season the way the church intended it to be. I'll start there and see how it goes. Always room for improvement next year!

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