Things to remember next Christmas 1

The distance between the Christmas we imagine and the Christmas we have, determines our enjoyment of it.   I once read that “lessons are repeated until they are learned.”  With Christmas 2007  fresh in my mind, I thought it would be good to write down some things that I need to remember (and that you probably do, too).

Don’t go crazy buying gifts, don’t buy to impress, and don’t go overboard on the cousins who always gift you from the Dollar Store.  Do what you can.  The people who love you and know you, know what you can and cannot afford.
Give or don’t give according to your ability and desire.

Expect that somebody is going to get on your nerves during the preparations just like you’re probably getting on somebody else’s nerves.  When your Mom harumphs and complains about all the work she’s doing fixing dinner, understand that the complaints are tongue-in-cheek.  She is happy to cook your special favorite dishes for you – until she decides to hang up her apron.  When she is fully retired from the holiday preparations, she will have announced it.   In the meantime, she’s just fronting and wants recognition for her hard work.

Don’t wait until she’s retired from cooking, to find out how to make the special cake only she can pull off or to get the secret to her greens, stuffing, etc.  If you do, you’re liable to find yourself at the aunty or cousin’s house who thinks opening cans is the same as cooking.  You know the sister-girl who will get the turkey loaf or breast already cooked from the supermarket, open up some cans of Glory greens, and mix up some Stove Top stuffing and say it’s just as good made-from-scratch.  While you can, learn how to cook from your Mama, Nana, Aunt Betsy or whomever is the cooking champ in your family so you don’t get stuck in can-land.

Don’t wait until the whole family is around to pick a fight or spill a family secret.  Say whatever you need to say privately to the person who needs to know it.  Better yet, why don’t you wait until after the holidays?  If you’ve kept your peace and maintained the secret this long – you can surely table it until Christmas is over.  Public arguments and group gossip always escalate.  There are relatives and family friends who live to fan the family-feud flames.  Beware.

To the disgruntled cousins, new boyfriends, political cynics, and other folks whose various religious beliefs mean that they don’t celebrate Christmas...or don’t believe in the holiday because “it’s become too commercial” – I say, “stay your ass at home or get with the program.” If you’re invited for Christmas dinner, you ought to expect that there are going to be some gifts and some mention of Christ or some other thing that will offend your values.  If you don’t want to hear it – sit the holiday out and  let the rest of us enjoy.

And another thing for you disgruntled relatives and broke-behind or just plain cheapskates friends, when we gift you with some of the things you need, it’s done out of our love for you.  Don’t pout because you don’t have anything to give back – we know who you are and know not to expect a gift from you. Don’t get upset about the expense of the  coat or boots or whatever, because we know you need one it; don’t take the joy out of our giving ’cause you couldn’t get it together to give gifts.  There’s always next year.  Believe it or not, we want you to celebrate and reminisce with us, otherwise we wouldn’t have invited you.  Your presence is our present.

Husbands, if you wife says she loves gift cards – give her a gift card.  By now, you should know where she likes to shop.  If you don’t, go through the drawer where she keeps all the empty bags and you’ll find out the names of her favorite stores.  A gift card is a gift that keeps on giving and allows those of us who like to shop (and keep the economy going), to partake in this joyful pastime.

In every society in the world, people have holidays to break from the workday world.  Christmas, Kwanzaa, or Festivus (for the rest of us)* has whatever meaning we bring to it, whatever practices we develop, and whatever values we believe.  It is in those precious moments when you look around at the family and friends that have gathered and you stuff your stomach beyond full, and you’ve told the jokes and you take account that so many of us have made it together for another year…it is then that the spirit of Christmas abides.  And no mater how exhausting and frustrating parts of the celebration can be, I know that I hope and pray that I’ll be here…and able to do it again next year…surrounded by family love and family foolishness.

About Candelaria Silva

Candelaria Silva-Collins is a marketing, community outreach and programming consultant; writer; and trainer/facilitator who lives in Boston, Massachusetts. She has designed and facilitated workshops on a wide variety of topics including communication, facilitation, job search skills, team building, and parenting issues. She currently coordinates the Community Membership Program of the Huntington Theatre Company. Her work as Director of ACT Roxbury was profiled in several publications, including The Creative Communities Builders Handbook. Candelaria’s children’s stories, short stories, essays and reviews have been published in local and national publications and she is an active blogger. Her publications include the booklets, Handling Rejection; Pushing through Shyness: Networking Tips when You’re Shy, Slow to Warm Up or Just don’t Feel you Belong; and Real Questions about Sex & Relationships for Teens: A Discussion Guide for Parents. She has served on the boards of Goddard College, Wheelock Family Theatre, Boston Foundation for Architecture, and Discover Roxbury. She is currently Chair, Designators of the Henderson Foundation.

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