One of the best things about the holiday season is the music. I have a Spotify Christmas music playlist of almost 500 songs. And there are even more on my iPad! So that would be the first totally non-secular thing I love about this time of year: music. Everything from hammered dulcimer playing very old English carols to the Barenaked Ladies blaring out “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” How can we celebrate w/out music??
It should come as noooo surprise to anyone who knows me that food figures in this list. I spent the past week cooking — for my girlfriends holiday tea. My sisters & nieces join women from my writing classes, from my former job, from all parts of my life. And I cook like the crazy person I can be: quiche, panna cotta (tried eggnog this year — success!), hummus (not always — it was a pass this year), four kinds of tea. All the fun accoutrements: the family silver, including the tea service; the ironstone w/ birds & flowers; runners embroidered w/ gold thread. So maybe instead of ‘food’ I should say: ritual sharing of food…?
3. Thinking of my friends & family
Wrapping, for instance: we found pirate ribbon! A perfect ribbon for my nephew (and for my younger son, were he joining us instead of traipsing across the Philippines!). How fun! Trying to find a gift for nieces & nephews I don’t see often, but love dearly. What are their interests? What would they enjoy? We’re not always big on gift cards, although we do those as well. Mostly, I love the excuse to buy presents for people I love, to cook for them, to show them in tangible ways how very dear they are.
I used to feel guilty, as a Buddhist, celebrating Christmas. Not so much while the children were small — I did it for them, and my family, I told myself. But who doesn’t love a riotously pagan tree, lit up against the winter darkness, floating on a tidal wave of gifts? Glittering foil, bright curls of ribbon, stockings bulging with trinkets… Who could resist?? But as I thought about it, the ways in which this time of year has come to be a giving back, a giving to, have won me over from my usual self-doubt.
So as you go about the hectic craziness that is American holiday season, remember that even if you’re not a Christian, and don’t celebrate Hannukah, there are other blessings to the season. Warm, wonderful reasons to rejoice. What are yours?