happy christmas!

photo by Baking Addict.

Tick tock, tick tock.

Christmas is practically here!

I think I hear the faint jingle of sleigh bells!

Better check my list to make sure I’ve got everything covered.

Shopping? Done (hooray!), 80% of it online.
Wrapping? Check (like doing the paper, not the ribbons/bows). 
Shipping of gifts? Check (USPS Flat Rate boxes are too dang small)!
Decorating? Yes, with the help of resident bears.
Christmas cards? Mailed (receiving and sending fewer this year).
Baking? Done for now, large percentage already consumed. ☺
Carol singing? Not yet, better practice on the piano.
Stress factor? Abating.

         Wreath in Old Town, Alexandria, VA.

Is it just me, or has anyone else ever thought that if it weren’t for women, there wouldn’t be any Christmas?

I may be wrong, but I’m guessing that in the majority of American households, it’s the female who frantically rushes around each year trying to get all these tasks completed. I’m not saying we don’t enjoy some of these traditions, just that there’s so much pressure to do all of them to the nth degree. Okay, men do like to string up lights outside; there’s a certain pride factor intense competition to have the prettiest house in the neighborhood. Must keep up appearances, even though there’s chaos inside.

But aside from that, myriad details, large and little, inevitably fall to women. After the big rush to Christmas day, a woman’s job still isn’t done, because then she must prepare Christmas dinner. This is tackled after a full morning of gift opening, Christmas breakfast, family visiting, hyper-excited kids whooping and hollering, and general head spinning. 

     Paper Source entrance, Alexandria, VA.
In my dotage *cough*, I’ve realized that Christmas will come, whether all these things get done or not. It will come to households with fewer gifts under the tree, to people who’ve lost loved ones during the year, to those who can’t be with their families or friends, to soldiers far from home, to the elderly in nursing homes, to the homeless shivering in the cold, to those who are happy and content as well as to those who are sad, displaced, or unemployed. 

It all comes to fore at Christmas — what you miss, what you regret, what you should have or could have done, memories of childhood holidays, high expectations of picture perfect celebrations, longstanding feuds, family tension, the inevitable retrospective of personal and professional achievements/failures, the all-encompassing pressure "to be happy," and a feverish desire to acknowledge anyone or everyone who has ever made the least bit of difference in your life.

I’m not a Scrooge. I like giving gifts to those I love and care about. I also love to bake and decorate, and to write little notes in Christmas cards. I love meeting friends for Christmas Eve dinner and listening to my favorite carols. Just not all at once. 

          These fellows wanted to come home with us.

Every year, it’s a small, quiet moment that "makes" Christmas for me. Usually, it’s not about a gift received or a cheery long distance phone call. It comes after all the necessary "tasks" are done, and I can reflect on what the day really means. 

Love came down at Christmas. The world witnessed a miracle. It’s wondrous and mysterious and often too profound for mere mortals to fully comprehend. Even though I may not like all the materialism that characterizes this holiday, I like that for at least one day of the year, billions of people all over the world are united in observance and celebration. Questions of faith will arise, a search for hope. These are good things. Soul searching, going deep, is good and necessary. No matter our age, we desperately want to believe, to keep believing. 

       With my brother, Newton, and our Charlie Brown Christmas Tree.

For the first time in ages, we have snow on the ground for Christmas. It is pure, white and sparkling in the sunlight as I type this. The trees are bare, but are proud to reveal their skeletons reaching for the sky. This brand of beauty is one of my favorite gifts this year. The big storm was a miracle –silently, it transformed the entire landscape. It forced everyone to stop whatever they were doing and pay attention. Cease your holiday madness! Close the Federal government! Stay at home with your families! There is something larger at work in the universe. The sky, and our spirits, have been cleansed. We can begin anew, a sense of wonderment restored.

Our back yard.

I think I’ve already had my Christmas "moment" for this year. The other day, at around dusk, I went out to check the mail. Deer. At first, I didn’t see them alongside the driveway. There were five of them, peacefully nibbling on stubs of grass. We saw each other at the same time; I kept walking. Normally, they would have high-tailed it out of there by then. Not this time. They froze, eyes on me. When I passed them, they were at the most 3 feet away. In ten years of living here, this is the closest I’ve ever been to them. I wanted to reach out and pet the buck (his antlers were magnificent), but instead, I said, "Well, hello." We shared a moment of curiosity and awe, like we’ve been neighbors all along but had never met face to face. I could have sworn one of them whispered, "For Christmas we’re going to be reindeer." ☺

You may know that our favorite tradition every year is to watch "A Christmas Memory," based on Truman Capote’s beloved short story. This version is narrated by Mr. Capote himself, and stars Geraldine Page as Cousin Sook. It blows the Patti Duke Hallmark version out of the water entirely, and I was happy to discover that it’s been posted on YouTube, in five parts. Do take some time this weekend to watch it. It’s the perfect way to slow down and reflect on the true meaning of the holiday. Simple joys shared are all we really need.

Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five

"Let’s be naughty and save Santa the trip." ~ Gary Allan

Happy Christmas! Bring on the cookies, egg nog, mistletoe, pecan pie, cranberry muffins, presents, and general fa la la!

Copyright © 2009 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

18 thoughts on “happy christmas!

  1. Jama, I’d been thinking of you just before clicking on “friends” and there you were. I love your childhood picture and your deer/reindeer moment. Wishing you more of the quiet moments, and if they come with cookies, all the better! Thanks for all you do to make our days brighter.


  2. Is it just me, or has anyone else ever thought that if it weren’t for women, there wouldn’t be any Christmas?
    I think it every year.
    Love this post, Jama, especially the photo of you and your brother, and that cute tree behind you.
    Merry Christmas, sweetie.


  3. Thanks, Jeannine. Nice to know you were thinking of me :). There’s a story that goes with that photo. My brother and I decided we’d try to open one gift each ahead of time and re-wrap it so my parents wouldn’t know. Of course we felt guilty and it spoiled all the fun, so we never did it again. That’s the gift I’m posing with in the photo. It was a purse from my aunt :).


  4. Phew! Glad I’m not the only one.
    We grew up with a lot of Charlie Brown trees. The selection shipped to Hawaii was limited and usually subpar. The tree in the picture was probably one of the most pitiful . . . but we still loved it — especially the smell.
    Happy Holidays, Lisa!


  5. Tanita Says 🙂
    Heh. That Gary Allan quote is about my speed. Yeah, let’s save the good man a trip out this way!
    Those cookies look SO GOOD – Man, I love a frosted cookie. I need to work on my fondant skills.
    Your backyard is gorgeous m’dear. Joyeux Noel!


  6. This was such a lovely, lovely post. Yes, I, as the woman, have born the brunt of holiday preparations most years, although I’m not responsible for all of Christmas dinner, too – I just help my SIL. Or my mother, if we’re in CA (where I wish I was, right now).
    But aside from that – I remember a bit about Christmas from Robert Fulghum (of “Everything I know I learned in Kindergarten” fame) in his Maybe, Maybe Not book. He talked of seeing a magazine cover proclaiming OMG It’s Christmas, regarding the pile of holiday obligations our society has bestowed – of baking and shopping and parties and decorating and cards and on and on and how the sentiment, while true, does not convey the joy the holiday should hold. And I have seen my flist reflect that – all the holiday related stress and to-do lists. And I want to do what Fulghum did, one day – to not give mandatory gifts, to tell others to save their money or donate to some charity instead, and to go off to some quiet location where you can truly hear the angels sing.
    I would love to take those nearest and dearest to me, and go off to a cozy cabin on Lake Tahoe, prepare a giant pot of soup/stew with homemade bread, and curl by the fire, enjoying the silent night. Clearly, this won’t happen while our kids are still small but … maybe someday.
    All of which was entirely too wordy, so I’ll just wish you a lovely silent night of your own. 🙂


  7. Elaine M.
    I just wanted to stop by and wish you a Merry Christmas! I hope you have a grand and high caloric holiday. My kitchen duties are nearly done. I have just one more pie to bake.


  8. What a beautiful post, and oh so true.
    I’m hoping you’re having a wonderful Christmas, full of quiet, meaningful moments!
    Love, Becky Ramsey


  9. Re: Tanita Says 🙂
    At least you have “fondant skills!”
    Can’t believe we still have snow on the ground. Usually it melts away pretty quickly. Hope you had a delicious holiday!


  10. Thanks for the lovely comment and compliment, Debbie! Your cabin by the lake with a pot of stew sounds idyllic. Too often, we get caught up in all the noise and falderal of the holiday and forget it’s a religious observance and a reminder to treat our fellow man with kindness, love, and compassion throughout the year.


  11. I agree about the part where I don’t want to do everything at once. This year, I’ve really embraced just taking one thing at a time and taking a little rest break when I start to feel stressed out. I do not have all the packages mailed or even all the cards done, but I figure they’ll be nice surprises when they arrive a little late. Maybe they’ll even be more notable arriving a little later when life is a bit calmer. I hope, anyway. 🙂
    I hope you’re having a lovely, restful holiday weekend!


  12. I like your approach, Adrienne! Personally, I don’t mind receiving gifts or cards after the holiday. You’re right. They’re a nice surprise after all the commotion has passed. 🙂


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