To me, holidays are about connections – connections to family, to the past, to community. My Christmas is all about those links that bind us together. We put up our tree on Christmas Eve, together with whatever family members have managed to ingather for the holiday.
Our tree is eclectic – heavy on icicles, sheep and birds, for some reason, but also with fifty different unmatched pieces. The ornaments bring back memories – a glass bell of my father’s from my childhood tree; a painted bird from the year we were in California; skates for my skater-kid; the sparkly cabbage for my vegan husband. As we unwrap and hang them, we laugh at the spiky hedgehog, or the wooden snake shaped like a candycane that was a gift from my sister-in-law…
We stop afterward to eat cookies. These are my mother’s Swiss holiday recipes, full of almonds, honey, oranges, chocolate, butter… and more almonds. Some of the cookie cutters we use for the butter cookies have been in service for 90 years.
And we play the music of the season. Music to remind us that once upon a time, a little dark-skinned, poor, immigrant Jewish boy grew up to change a billion lives. To remind us that the small, and humble, and rejected may hold the keys to the kingdom. And because, in the familiar songs, I hear my mother’s hands on the piano, that now are stiff and silent with arthritis, and my father’s voice, strong and sure on “Oh, Come, Emmanuel” as I have not heard it in ten years.
For some this is a very hard time. If the memories of holidays past have jagged edges, they are painful to get close to. Or if loss has broken those connections, it can be a lonely time. If that’s you, I send you hugs and thoughts and hope for building better new memories.
In my house, the season is about remembering the good things. About still playing Santa at midnight for my adult kids, about letting the dog on the couch, about a chain of traditions that alter and shift, but do not break, going back through generations.
Very best wishes to all of you – may whatever holidays you celebrate warm your heart, and bring you peace and joy.