Reflections on the Season

At the behest of my daughters, particularly my oldest daughter, I am downsizing Christmas.  No, I didn’t fire Santa Claus, or his elves, but there will be fewer packages and less shopping this year.  Instead of everyone buying everyone else a present, we did a lottery for gift exchange among the eleven in the next two generations—three daughters, three sons-in-law, four granddaughters, and one grandson-in-law. My extended family of 12 will have seven physically present and five on Zoom, because several of them have to work over the holidays. The tree is smaller and sits on a table.

Downsizing Christmas has been an evolving process over the last few years. It makes me aware of what really matters.  One is reducing wasteful consumption. My daughters have been urging a shift to consumables and experiences.  Two of them are getting tickets to Stomp! Others are getting movie tickets, and gourmet chocolates. And always books, which I regard as a consumable, a few that may be kept and others passed on to libraries or book sales or friends.  A round of visiting the Global Giving website in which I invite each person to choose a project to support. A movie night for all those present (sometimes we can’t agree and have to split up into smaller groups!) A reading of Dylan Thomas’s A Child’s Christmas in Wales. Baking favorite treats for those present and absent—gluten free cookies for my middle daughter, blueberry scones for my oldest grandchild, neither of whom can be present.

I remember what Christmas was like when I was much younger, with a family of five and an academic career. I used to complain that I couldn’t observe Advent during final exam season, let alone a less frenetic preparation for the holidays. Now I can observe Advent, alone with my cat, playing Christmas music, lighting an advent wreath, attending all-adult social events, and looking forward to a scaled down and less exhausting round of family-centered gifts, games, movies, church services, and food.

Which is better? Neither. Each has been a treasured place  place in my journey from wide-eyed child going into the woods with my mother, brother and sister to cut down a tree, to the 81-yearold grandmother with the four-foot artificial tree, from the delighted five year old with a doll house with real electric lights to an aging widow who makes a list of minor household repairs for two of her tree sons-in-law. But I do wish that I had come earlier to this awareness, urged on by daughters (especially the oldest) to simplify Christmas, to downplay the material side, slow the pace, and be present in the moment for those I love.

May you experience the blessings of this universal season of cold and dark as both a time to look inward and a celebration of the return of the light (pagan), the arrival of the light (Christian), the persistence of the light (Jewish), or whatever other meaning may speak to your heart and soul. I wish each of you a rich, tradition-filled, earth-embracing holiday season.

2 thoughts on “Reflections on the Season

  1. Holley, you are such a beautiful writer. I totally identify with this downsizing, also at the behest of my daughter. I’m not doing as good as job as you are, though. I’m sharing this with my daughter. Miss all of you.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s