Monday, December 22, 2014

How Do You Celebrate?

When I was a kid, I celebrated Hannukah with my best friend TEO, and Christmas with my family.  It didn’t take a lot of years for me and TEO to realize we were family, but over the lot of years we’ve been “cousins” now, our families have changed, and geography has made its inevitable marks, as she moved out of state (even, for a time, out of the country) and I came back.

For much of my life, Christmas was about kids.  Since the migration of my nieces to other climes, for the past seven (!!) years, it’s been just me, mom, and my stepfather.  (We have a nickname for him in life, but that is too sweet and too unique to use here; I really need to come up with some other way to refer to him than “my stepfather”, because he’s come to mean so much more to me than such a simple/stark designation.  Suggestions welcome …)  The first time it was just us three, I felt awkward and almost responsible, in a way – our family’s children were gone, and I made a lousy substitute, and the relationships then were not as deep, as comfortable as they have become.

And it’s Christmas, in some ways, which has helped the relationships to “get there” as they say.  Stepfather’s generosity is humbling, for one – and has affected my life profoundly, in material ways.  He gave me a laptop and mom a beautiful Mac five years ago, and out of that laptop I procured two jobs in succession, and completed (I thought … !) the novel.  It was a gift beyond conceiving, to me, but I’ve been immensely grateful for it, even since having to finally replace it just a few months ago.  But far more than the presents, the PRESENCE has been revelatory.

Mom and he and I have found that a small Christmas isn’t the sacrifice it once seemed like it might be.  We miss and always talk with the family faraway, but there is a wonderful simplicity to our small celebration.  I find myself looking forward to it as a specially intimate, above-all *peaceful* family time; and the feeling of family has become completely natural now.  He’s been unwell to varying degrees for the past three years, and the degree to which I feel protective of and tender toward him surprises and humbles me.  Gaining a stepfather at age 38, I was unwilling to accept any relationship with the word “father” in it in any way; I wanted, out of loyalty, to hold him at a distance.  But he has turned out to be dear, and so funny I’m unable to resist.

We’ve had Thanksgivings with friends many times together; my friend Zuba, last year; my neighbor, whom they love and who loves them, a couple of times, and their friends.  We’ve done it different ways; at my house, at theirs, even (gasp!) at a restaurant, this year.

But Christmas is always ours, now.  Just me, mom and him, maybe a furbaby or two; just a reasonable amount of good food, just a few gifts, and many laughs.  We’ve done it twice at my home, but mostly at theirs; it’s a pleasure, either way.

This year, I’ll go over in the morning, probably toting Gossamer the Editor Cat, but without the Whirlwind Pen, and we’ll share a little breakfast.  We’ll smilingly make our way to the tree and open gifts from each other and from family.  We’ll ooh and ahh and comment how everyone was “too generous” and spend a little time examining the peculiarities of one thing or another.  Turkey dinner … then we’ll nap.  Mom will coo when Gossie comes to love on her, or we’ll beckon him down when he peeps over the railing from the loft above the living room.  I’ll stay until wintry dusk begins to encroach, so Penelope won’t be alone too long for Christmas.  And the evening will be me and the two fuzzies, looking at my tree (seen by more friends already this year than most years, which is a small joy, a grateful blessing), and go to bed early.

I may even do all this in palazzo pants.  eBay had a pair recently I think might have been the same kind … !

What are you doing to celebrate Hannukah, Christmas, Hannumas, Kwanzaa, or New Year’s Eve?  (And please tell me nothing of this Christmakah advertisers have tried to foist upon us of late.  TEO and I both know, dating back thirty-plus years by now: it’s Hannamas or Chanumas; however you spell it, the one that comes first, is the one that comes first!)

(Related note – am I the only one noticing an almost perfect absence, in any public sphere – either locally, in decorations and messages visible at businesses and homes – of Hannukah and Kwanzaa?  Kwanzaa in particular appears to have disappeared utterly.  It’s weird.)


Colin Smith said...

I, too, have noticed a distinct lack of Hannukah and Kwanzaa iconography in the public celebrations of "the holidays," which to me makes a mockery of this political correctness. I have no objection to the use of "the holidays" to refer to Thanksgiving-Hannukah-Kwanzaa-Christmas-and-occasionally-Ramadan collectively. What bugs me is when people say "holidays" when they quite clearly mean "Christmas." If you're giving gifts on Dec 25th, you're celebrating Christmas (unless you are celebrating the Saturnalia, in which case, fair enough). If you make reference to trees, Santa, elves, etc., that's Christmas. If your celebrations involve 8 days of gift-giving and menorah candle-lighting, etc., then you're celebrating Hannukah. The Christmas tree is a "holiday tree" as much as the menorah is a "holiday candlestick." Often in our society's attempt to not offend anyone, it ends up offending everyone. And, honestly, most people don't care if you wish them "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Hannukah"--whichever is appropriate for the person/time of year. It's just a few that get uptight about these supposed infringements of "religion" into the public dialog. Even for the irreligious, these are centuries-old traditions that the people of this country have enjoyed under their specific names for generations. Lighten up!

Sorry... stepping off the soapbox...

Our Christmas is usually lively (six kids, plus cousins, not to mention the adults), but, like yours, the day really centers on family. Being together, eating together, laughing together, playing cards together. And it's over way too quickly.

Colin Smith said...

And I think I misspelled Hanukkah in my previous comment. Apologies. Typing too quickly. :)

DLM said...

Given that it's a transcription from Hebrew, you kind of can't spell it wrong in English rendering. :) I spelled it several ways myself, kind of intentionally.

I haven't even seen *merchandise* for Kwanzaa and Chanukah this year, except one very small display in one single store, selling "gelty pleasures" and a few star of David and dreidel-shaped cookie cutters. Corporations are missing out on money-making opportunities, which is perhaps even more bewildering than the general landscape's Christmas homogeneity.

Colin Smith said...

The dagesh in the kaph would double the consonant in English transliteration. Of course, this is going off of Biblical Hebrew. Modern Hebrew may render it differently. That's why I kick myself for getting it "wrong"--at least according to BH.

Going back to my soapbox, it does seem a little ridiculous that purveyors of merchandise call this the "holidays" yet sell things that are distinctly Christmas and have nothing to do with any of the other festivals celebrated this time of year. Either diversify your product lines, or call it what it is! :)

DLM said...

The sad thing about this post has less to do with the public now than the private; stepfather is pretty ill, with a very high fever, so Christmas may be delayed this year. Waiting to hear what the doc says, but the wait to see her was horrendous last I heard.

Colin Smith said...

Sorry to hear that, Diane. :( I pray your step-father recovers quickly, and you can get some answers from the doctor soon.