I can never wait until after Thanksgiving to start the Christmas music. It isn't always appreciated by those who are circling in and out of my living spaces. And it isn't as if I am religious anymore. I am not pushing any particular message except to support goodwill and good cheer -- and a setting aside of any pressing issues that are, in any case, beyond our control. Goodwill and good cheer I am heartily in favor of, and will continue to champion. I won't be solving global warming or war in the middle east just now.
What I will be doing is decorating, baking, cooking, and generally making merry however I can and with whomever is around. Today I baked Hanukkah cookies with my granddaughter, and the expectation that I had was of a great show of expertly baked and embellished delicacies. We used a lot of butter and sugar, so in the end nothing could really go wrong (except my oven bakes too hot, so some of the cookies were a bit singed, but tasty nonetheless). What I failed to take into account is the fact that when you are eight years old the experience of baking cookies is extremely tactile. We had a lot of smushing and smashing and re-rolling and re-flouring and re-rolling going on. Fortunately the dough was forgiving enough that the final result, though not exactly what I had expected it to be, was very satisfactory and completly satisfying on all counts.
We are a family that celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas, and the Winter Solstice, and Kwanzaa, and whatever else we can lay our hands on. Hanukkah and Christmas because those are family traditions, the rest because we feel free to an eclectic approach to life any time of the year. Equinox celebrations also get a nod.
The anticipation of Christmas for me when I was a kid was absolutely the best. Better than the realization, of course, as almost every grand thing in its reveal. My family had unusual challenges most of the time because my mother had some psychological burdens that often made a good share of the year very dark. But without exception, in my recollection of Christmases past, she was able to lift that hood of anxiety and depression as Christmas approached. And although many Christmases had a slightly manic edge, mostly we had a good time. Of course the old issues of family trying to cope with someone whose personality was not completely reliable were always moving just under the surface, but for a time we all were able to float above it all. And it was grand. Not always great, but grand in its own way.
So I wish for all of us great expectations and that the celebrations that are planned and executed all have the sparkle and shine that will make them memorable. Even if the Maccabee cookie's foot gets singed in the oven, may he still be a tasty reminder that the light does not go out. Expect some miracles, and be able to recognize the ones that we get because they are there each and every day.