Christmas is an intoxicating holiday.
Dazzling bright lights, decorations and colorful ornaments are sprinkled on Christmas trees, wreaths, boughs and tabletops. Brightly wrapped, carefully selected presents are our gestures of love. No longer limited to red and green, Christmas brings a myriad of bright colors to the winter’s gray landscape.
All of our senses are stimulated, the mingling aromas of baking, evergreens and assorted spices. Funny colored Christmas sweaters, scarves and hats and cackling fires surround us with warmth. We can hear Christmas carols, bells, holiday music and sometimes carolers. Parties offer intoxication and laughter as a relief from our daily lives. And, of course, delicious Christmas sweets and traditional meals are recreated to satisfy any appetite and to celebrate our memories of holidays past.
It is my favorite holiday.
Every year my nostalgic (which really means edited) memories of happy times are recreated. I cherish memories of how our home was filled sweet aromas, warm fires, music all celebrating the season of happiness.
When I married my Jewish husband, we added his traditions, Hanukkah. Our daughter was born on December 21st, so we had another reason to celebrate …and we went crazy. We realized that we had gone too far when one December day our 3-year-old daughter woke up and asked, do I get a present today?
So, we scaled back Hanukkah, instead of a nightly present, she got a present on the first night and we lit the Menorah and repeated the blessings on the other nights. Hanukkah is a much more civilized holiday, children love lighting the candles and giving children a single present each night allows them to enjoy it and anticipate the next one.
My husband was intrigued by Christmas, his face was pressed against the glass at Christmas.
He was a good sport about it, he put up the Christmas lights (we used to joke about the Jew having the best Christmas lights). While he did it for me, I think that he secretly enjoyed it. He was perplexed by the constant activity, I baked and baked and decorated and we entertained and built our own traditions. But mostly he was bewildered by Christmas day, watching a child tear through so many presents looked like chaos.
Soon he learned about the other Christmas traditions. Using ladders under treacherous conditions to put up and take down Christmas lights. The annual fight over the Christmas tree. The extra pounds that we needed to lose in January. The Christmas day meltdown, as children were overwhelmed by a lack of sleep and too many presents. The wailing about the first broken toy. (Only having one child, we missed the fight about which child got the most presents.) And, because there wasn’t enough chaos, we created a new tradition, clean up, put everything away by 1pm and rush, rush, rush to drive 4 hours (or fly to a warm destination) to visit family.
I wish you the very best in celebrating yours.
Angela Rieck, a Caroline County native, received her PhD in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland and worked as a scientist at Bell Labs, and other high-tech companies in New Jersey before retiring as a corporate executive. Angela and her dogs divide their time between St Michaels and Key West Florida. Her daughter lives and works in New York City.