READER'S HOLIDAY RESPONSES
As December begins we find ourselves moving
full steam ahead into the holiday season.
O.K., some people have already started, but for those of us
who cannot face a Christmas tree before Thanksgiving (fourth
Thursday in November in the U.S.)
the fun has just begun.
Along with the family/school/church activities also comes
stress, and since everyone has their own unique way of dealing
with/celebrating the holidays, we have some practical, witty, and
heart-warming contributions to share with you. You may find a
tradition to add to your own family celebration.
Happy Holidays and much Love and Luck in the
Allie and Ansie
As those of you with small children
(and those of you who remember when your kids were small) know,
the holidays, while exciting are also stressful.
Here are a few strategies I have found to be helpful:
Stick to regular bedtimes and mealtimes.
No matter what the activity, your child will not enjoy it
if they are tired or hungry (that goes for spouses, too).
When it comes to shopping leave the kids at home (that goes
for spouses, too). Find
a neighbor or friend to trade shopping/babysitting time.
My oldest child was 10 weeks old at the time of his first
Christmas. After 1300
miles, 5 homes, and 7 days, the only sound in the car on the way
home was whimpering and wailing.
Thank goodness the baby slept most of the way.
The following year, with memories of Christmas past still
fresh in our minds, we rebelled against tradition and stayed home
and it’s been that way ever since. We don’t travel during the
holidays. Anyone and
everyone are welcome to join us at our home.
(If you think your family would never let you get away with
this, try it. I’ve
had people tell me they wished they had done it YEARS ago.
It would have saved some very frayed nerves.)
Dinner is potluck, laid back, and celebrated at my house
(which really works out well because my house is
“kid-friendly” and “child proofed” and has all the
paraphernalia for babies, i.e. crib, playpen, changing table,
gates, etc.) Since we
have a traditional turkey dinner on Thanksgiving I try to do
something different for Christmas.
One year we ate Italian, another was just “Bring your
favorite food”, and last year I made Beef Wellington.
The best thing about it is that while the women get the
meal together, it is the men who do the cleanup afterward.
That way, we all get to relax at some point and enjoy the
day. (And the guys think they are geniuses because they can fit
all the leftovers into the fridge.)
I think the key to handling holiday stress is
to not have any expectations, be open to whatever comes your
way…by that I mean your meal may not be perfect, your children
may not be angels, your brother-in-law’s best friend’s sister
may miss her flight and you may have another person to squeeze
into an already crowded table (at this point, I move the kids to
the kitchen and put the oldest in charge of crowd control). Go with it and a good time will be had by all, including you!
Hi all -- I handle stress by going to
Christmas Tree Lightings and Carol Singings -- the town next to me
has a wonderful celebration the First Friday in December -- last
year I brought my special friend from Belarus and he and I had a
wonderful time, drinking hot chocolate and just walking around
looking at the sights -- I find that watching children with Santa
Claus helps too. As far as traditions -- there has been a special
family one every year -- it is actually Christmas Eve -- it is
from the region in Italy (northern) that
my family is from -- We don't eat meat on
Christmas Eve -- the family enjoys a special lobster casserole and
then we open gifts then -- at midnight we go to Mass and then back
to the house for meat -- right now it is just my mother and myself
but it is still special.
On Christmas Day I have the grandchildren
over and I put the pickle in the tree for them to find (I am also
part Czech/German) the child who finds it gets a dollar (well
actually they all get a dollar).
It's me, Gio.
Well, this piece is by Luciana Littizzetto, a
wonderful Italian comedian that, through fun and sarcasm, makes
great analyses of Women's everyday issues. She is really cool.
Here it is:
"NEW YEAR, IDENTICAL WAY OF LIFE"
New year. New way of life? Basically, the
same. With a few new certainties. Like Cindy Crawford who, in a
commercial for a vacuum cleaner, lets us know that she hates dust
mites. Terrific. We needed her with her mole to tell us. Just
think that, on the contrary, we are crazy for them. We proudly
raise them in the hems of the carpets. Happily, we allow them to
reproduce in the corners of the fireplace. Go, Cindy, go...just go
back to Illinois and, if you can, take with you that turnip
Richard Gere with his pralines. (Another Italian commercial, NB)
What tiredness. I don't know what is tolerance anymore. Maybe it's
the magic of Christmas. Oh yeah. What the heck does a woman do
Holidays? She frays her soul and her body.
With one hand she draws her salary and with the other one she pays
the bills, buys presents for the kids, prepares the hangings,
decorates the Christmas tree, settles the gas installment, cooks
raviolis, buys a Christmas flower for her mother- in-law, runs to
the hairdresser, fills the car, hangs the mistletoe on the door,
treats the flu of the youngest son that always becomes ill during
Christmas wishes to her hubby's colleagues,
soaks the lentils, buys firecrackers for New Year's Eve, and, to
avoid wasting time, sweeps the floor with a broom tied to her ass.
And the man? This damn idiot? He wears a red
costume and a white beard and he plays Santa Claus. Period. Then
he plays all the time with the kids and tells them, "Mommy
isn't longing to play because she didn't remain childish like
me!" You didn't remain childish, my dear invertebrate love,
you remained foolish.... do you understand it? Those small 3 or 4
letters are making the difference. To you, my sweetheart, the
maximum of transgression is sleeping without your pants. Do you
know, sweet strawberry, that you're a 2nd quality man?
You're like the shoulder ham with polyphosphates. If you eat it
you won't die, but in the long run you damage your health. Ah, I
forgot. Do you see those sparkling horns that still are under the
Christmas tree? They're for you.
("Putting horns on somebody" is an Italian slang
that means betraying him)
Hope you liked it. So you also have an idea
of Italian traditions!
I was born in the 1950’s in a small town in north
central Wisconsin, a farming town in the north central
portion of the state. I
was the fifth of seven children, in a lower-middle-class family
that was very much involved in our church.
Christmas was an important holiday for the family, despite
constant money worries; Mom and Dad went out of their way to save
enough funds to make things special for all us kids.
So, my Christmas memories from my childhood are beautiful,
and very dear to me.
Like most families, I would guess, we had
specific traditions. We
always had a real Christmas tree, usually a spruce that Daddy
insisted on choosing himself.
It went up on December 23, and was decorated in a specific
way that included hanging tinsel strand by strand until the entire
tree was one unbroken shimmering silver triangle – we kids
weren’t allowed to help hang the tinsel until we were at least
in senior high school, although we could help take it down on New
Year’s Day – Dad would be absolutely horrified at how long
people keep their Christmas trees up these days.
Old-fashioned Christmas lights with silver reflectors, and
an incredible array of red, blue, and green balls completed the
decorations. As soon
as the tree was up and decorated, my siblings and I changed into
our Christmas-best dresses or suits, to kneel in front of the tree
for the traditional Christmas photograph.
Then, because my mother insisted on keeping the Biblical
Christmas front and center, we all watched as she personally
erected the little nativity set her father had made for her when
she was a little girl. For
Mom, Christmas was a celebration of family, from the Christ family
down through the ages to our family, and we never had any doubt
that the ‘gift’ we were symbolically giving each other
represented God’s incredible gift to humankind: His only
Our presents to each other, and one present
for each of us from Mom and Dad, were the only presents wrapped
and placed under the tree, and we were forbidden to touch them
before Christmas morning. The
big focus was on going to church for the Candlelight service
Christmas Eve, a service that was mostly Christmas carols and, of
course, candles for everyone in the congregation.
After the service, I sometimes chose to walk home; in that
town, at that time, no one doubted that I would be safe, and this
gave me some of my most treasured Christmas memories. The one that stays foremost in my mind was my thirteenth
Christmas. It was
snowing lightly; the temperature was just cold enough that the
snow was crisp, not 80% water, and the cloud cover wasn’t thick,
so the moon and even a few stars shone through.
I walked home alone, kicking at the snow and singing my
favorite carols to myself. Other than my quiet singing, everything was totally hushed,
that special stillness that accompanies new snow.
I had never previously felt so close to Christmas, and to
God and His Creation, as I did that night, and I have never felt
so close since. It
was absolutely beautiful, and I could have walked for hours.
But, I knew I would be expected at home, to
go upstairs to bed by 9:30 sharp.
Only after we went to bed would the rest of the Christmas
presents be placed under the tree: these were our presents from
Santa, although I do not remember a time when I didn’t know that
it was my parents who were putting all those unwrapped presents
out. Santa Claus was
fun; we loved hearing “T’was the night before Christmas, and
all through the house …”, but we knew without a doubt that he
wasn’t real. Anyway,
we would be sent up to bed, and couldn’t come down to explore
until Mom called us for breakfast in the morning. Even then, we had to eat first, and only afterward would we
actually receive our gifts. Do
you know, I can only remember a very, very few specific items: my
very first record player, a goofy game from my older brother
called “Changeable Charlie’s Aunt”.
What I remember most were the emotions, the closeness, the
happiness, the love. The gifts seem incidental now, looking back, although at the
time I probably valued them very highly.
That thirteenth Christmas, however, is the
last one I can remember clearly as being so happy.
Just before Thanksgiving the next year, only a week before
his tenth birthday, one of my younger brothers was struck by a
drunk driver, and died the next day.
Our church (by which I mean the ministers and the
congregation rather than God Himself), which we had made such a
centerpiece of our family life, let us down very badly at that
time, and the family never really recovered.
Oh, Mom and Dad – especially Mom – tried very hard to
keep Christmas up the same as always, but we all felt differently.
The pictures in front of the tree stopped.
Over the years, we pulled away from the Candlelight
Service, and began opening Christmas presents on Christmas Eve
instead of Christmas morning.
Gradually, we all drifted away from the church we were
raised in. Most of my
siblings simply joined whatever church their spouses belong to.
Once all of us were away from home, all traditions of our
old family Christmas pretty much faded; my sibs all celebrate
Christmas with their in-laws, Mom doesn’t really celebrate
Christmas anymore, and I frequently just stay home with my
roommate and my cat. The
family holidays now are Thanksgiving, and the Fourth of July,
which was also my parents’ wedding anniversary.
So, each year as Christmas approaches, I find
myself dreaming of that special walk home from church on Christmas
Eve when I was thirteen. And
I wish there were some way I could recover that exact feeling, but
since innocence was such a large part of it then, I doubt it’s
possible. I can come
close, though, and I continue to try.
This year, I plan on making a very special attempt, in
remembrance of all those who lost loved ones on September 11 and
will therefore be feeling this Christmas much as my family did the
year I was fourteen. God
gave us his Son full knowing the suffering that lie ahead, and I
intend to let Him know how grateful I am.
Christmas is still a time for celebrating family: The Human