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Ready as I Need to Be

November 22, 2015

“Oh God! to hear the insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust!”

– The ghost of Christmas past from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

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I’ve had many wonderful winter holidays. For years, from November through December, I was fully engaged in all the activities. When I was a kid, my parents and relatives created fabulous times and lasting memories for the entire extended family. Much of this centered around the Scandinavian traditions my paternal great grandparents brought with them when the immigrated in the late 1800’s. Some of my relatives hold on to some of these customs to this day, but many have faded or have been set aside as we lost the the elders and generation that followed.

When my children were growing up, we borrowed from the past, but also found our own rituals and routines. While there were never fancy holidays to ski resorts or new cars with ribbons and bows in the garage, we were very fortunate and never in want. Christmas was always special for us. It was a big deal.

But things change and I abandoned Christmas years ago. It’s all in the past and that’s good enough for me. Good for me, perhaps; I prefer it that way. No more counting days or counting money. Liberated from trying to get things exactly right and oblivious to the shiny objects around us. I don’t keep lists anymore and don’t have the burden of running out for one last thing hanging over me. The vestiges are cleared.

Hum bug!, you say? No not really. I have no feelings about others celebrating Christmas or any of the other winter holidays. While I’m not good at sending wishes for happy holidays, I would not want anything but that for those who look forward to this time of the year. I’ve been there and understand it. I know that some people find meaning in all of this and that it’s a special time for many.

I do make one exception to the forsaken holidays, however. I still read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I love the language and style and the story never grows old.

There’s more to all of this of course, but nothing that needs to be talked about here. I created a short descriptive video that touches on some of my thoughts about this time of the year. It’s possible that even those of you who are passionate about Christmas or enjoy other winter holidays will enjoy it.

 

 

41 Comments
  1. With each passing year I’m more tempted to do what you do. It seems there is so much work involved with Christmas. It shouldn’t be that way, but with the shopping, wrapping, and baking, there is. Makes it stressful at times, which is a shame.

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  2. Working toward this total freedom, although with small grandchildren I admit it’s difficult to give all the trappings of this holiday time completely away. Their parents are doing a good job of keeping life and all the extraneous stuff in check though, which makes it easier to slowly bow out…

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    • Having small grandchildren isn’t a factor for me. I can imagine that having little ones around would add a level of considerations for someone who wants to remain on the sidelines.

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  3. Great! I still make a deal of Christmas but it is Christmas on my terms, not the Christmas of my family. That was always wrought with drama. My Christmases now are not… Thank goodness.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mat – My Christmas times weren’t affected with drama. All were good. Thank goodness, as you say.

      I can imagine that in some short time, we will be able to read about your Christmas in a Letter from NY.

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  4. I also put Christmas behind me years ago. If people find good things in it, and it brings them closer together, that’s great. But for me, the holiday put unbearable stress on our family very early on. We just didn’t have the financial and emotional wherewithal to turn it into a positive experience. Many times I tried to convince family members that we should focus on other things besides the commercialism – to no avail. More than anything else, I valued personalized, creative gifts like a jar of homemade preserves. Unfortunately, very few felt the same way. The cultural forces are too strong.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Robert – I think your experience is not uncommon. It’s so difficult to meet expectations set and molded by culture and big companies on most days. After it’s amped up for the holidays, it becomes almost impossible. My family always got it just right; no unrealistic expectations and plenty of gratitude – both when I was a child and then later when we were parents of young children. I think this made my transition to passing on the holiday altogether easy.

      What could be better than a cup of black coffee with a piece of your favorite toast with homemade preserves? Nothing. When I was a young dad, I always asked my children for something homemade. I still have those treasures.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Your video is just right.. I got stressed and exhausted baking, decorating,but no expensive gifts since we raised 5 kids. Now they do it. I go along for the ride, having dropped most of the trappings. Don’t have the courage to drop them all since they include us in their celebrations.

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    • Hi Paula,

      The amount of effort and money that goes into baking is deceptive. Going in, we know it will be significant, but it seems that consistently we seem to discount it and forget about how much was put into it the year before. It’s very impressive how much people do and on balance, how much joy it ultimately gives them. As a kid, I could not get enough of the Christmas cookies that my mother and relatives made.

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  6. I also stopped “getting ready” years ago. Like you, my friend, I also pass no judgment on those that strive to celebrate – as there can be a large dose of virtue in what many celebrate and their vision of its meaning. Strange as it may sound, I will admit I still enjoy the seasonal decorations and joy I see in the faces of those that feel the celebration worthy…mostly in the eyes of children. I know it may not always be for the right reasons, but I can think of no wrong in a child’s eyes being bright.

    But it just got too big and out of control for me as well. Too rushed and too much about commerce – and not enough about stopping for even a second to simply *be* in the moment.

    Funny thing is…I am still happy to wish all a very, Merry Christmas. Yeah, I know…go figure.

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    • Hi Pete,

      Well, maybe a “Merry Christmas” greeting from someone who doesn’t celebrate himself is a prime example of goodwill toward all. And sure, driving through the neighborhood after a night on the town with the bright holiday lights reflecting against the houses and white snow can be a nice wrap-up. The neighbor with the Clark Griswold program can serve as a temporary landmark for directing people to your house. Who needs GPS when there’s a house like that in town?

      Do you have any residual traditions? A type of food or meal? One last decoration? A Christmas tie?

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      • The tree still goes up along with quite a few trinkets. Deb’s doings. She seems to have collected more than a few as they’ve been handed down. I don’t mind at all. Traditions? Other than having to take a pic of the Pugs in their elf hats?

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        • Well, that goes without saying. We bought those elf hats and doggone it, pull them out of the attic one more time. Let’s get another cute pug photo!

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  7. Bruce, I’m with you. Years ago, I freed myself from the Christmas commercial madness.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Right on Rosaliene. It is relentless. However, I have to say that while it started at some of the stores here the first day after Halloween, it seems to be moderated just a bit by some retailers. When I was out last weekend to take photos for the video, I was surprised that they weren’t as prevalent as I expected. I am usually oblivious to it all, but this time I was actually looking for them. I suppose it will increase after Thanksgiving.

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  8. I love seeing other people enjoy the season, but I don’t “do” the holidays. As a massage therapist and Yoga instructor I see so many of my clients and students wear down under the stress of expectations and holiday responsibilities. I always think my job is to be the role model that lets them see that it’s OK to not do all those things … that the immense and healthy relief of not undertaking all those additional holiday chores is one of the greatest gifts of all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Jackie, you would be just what the doctor ordered for this time of the year.

      I see people in the stores studying the merchandise, checking their cell phones and scraps of paper in their purse and I wonder if they are really enjoying themselves. Sometimes, it is clear that they really are where they want to be. Good for them.

      I know that feeling too. I was happy to participate when I did. I always felt fortunate to have the wherewithal and with our family, everything, anything, was just right. So getting it just right was mostly due to my own attempt to be creative or on target. But it’s so nice now to be on the other side.

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  9. As a Christmas “baby” I’ve always seen it as a birthday celebration on a very grand (nearly all-inclusive) scale, which allows it to continue to be magical for me. These days I use it as an excuse to gather my friends together. I can skip the presents. I can’t skip the favorite dinner dive or the singing.

    Your video reminded me that I’m also looking forward to what will hopefully be an end-of-year / year-in-review video tradition. (No pressure!)

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    • Birthday for Beth. On Christmas? Bundle it up and have a great time.

      Hard to imagine (accept) that we’re approaching the end of another year. What happened? I’ll put a Ram On 2015 recap on the docket soon. Thank you so much for even thinking about it. Wow!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Great video… plenty of Bruce humor in it. Thanks. As for Christmas, if I were on my own I would treat it like you do, but Peggy absolutely loves Christmas— and every other holiday as well. (grin) –Curt

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    • I imagine that if Peggy loves Christmas that Christmas at Curt and Peggy’s would be quite enjoyable. The both of you are “right attitude” kind of folks and the holidays would be just more of the right stuff.

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  11. I sure wish my family would buy into this idea. I’m pretty sure it’d be a losing battle, however.

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  12. Bruce, so much to say about this post, but I’ll try to keep it short 🙂
    Your comments about Christmas are why I love, love, love Thanksgiving! My friends and I now give to charity what we would have spent on each other and my family is working towards that same effort.
    I enjoyed the video and love Paul Simon!!

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    • Hi Laurie, It doesn’t surprise me that you’ve adopted your Christmas practice; it seems like it would suit you and your circle. I suspect that you bring this same level of kindness and benevolence to your profession.

      As you can imagine, I have the Paul Simon tune running in my mind in loops right now. I don’t mind at all. He got it right, but when he added that hypnotic sermon from Rev. Gates, it was game, set, match.

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  13. Excellent job with the video, and matching the music of the brilliant Paul Simon. I got a little nervous, seeing all that snow, now that I’m back in the land of winter. I found it easier to ignore more of the Christmas trimmings when I lived in the bay area in the past. New England does Christmas beautifully. However, I respect your decision to ‘do away with the holiday’ immensely. That said, if nothing else, the memories of our Christmases when we were raising out kids (no phones, just the 4 of us, fireplace on all day, gift giving, munch all day on annual Christmas-only treats, breathe in, breathe out, relax) have kept me celebrating every year, even though it will never be the same. But I’m paring down. Best part of the holiday is sharing a hot chocolate with a friend at a café, listening to the classical Christmas music, getting away from routine with a book and glass of wine while enjoying the Christmas tree in front of the fireplace.

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    • Ha ha! Snow is an abstraction out here. Just pretty white stuff that got me through the introduction of Paul Simon’s song and made a perfect background for the acknowledgements at the end. I grew up around the stuff and then later lived in snowy parts of the country for a few winters. Christmas lights reflecting on new snow can tug on a person to “come back” to Christmas. “Just give it a try.”

      Getting Christmas just right isn’t always easy when there are too many adults involved. Guys like me can make it hard for those who still enjoy the season’s pastimes. Good luck with your New England Christmas, Pamela. I have no doubt that you’ll arrange things well.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well, most importantly, I don’t try to arrange things perfectly. I do get a bit misty eyed, though, I admit, to the white outdoor Christmas lights that bring a glow to the newly fallen snow. (However, let it be noted that I only enjoy snow from Dec. 15 to 25. After that, it can all go away…) 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  14. There are things I love about this time of year. There are things I’d like to leave behind. I’m a strong believer in taking what works for you and leaving the rest. It isn’t a one-size-fits-all world … as much as some people who like to have us believe.

    Wrapped in warm memories of Christmases past, it sounds like you have taken what works for you 🙂

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  15. Very nice video you had put together, Bruce. We are minimalists as to Christmas preparation and celebration. A few Scandinavian traditions are still alive, mostly on the dinner table on Christmas Eve, but there is not much shopping going on. And there’s no stress 🙂

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  16. My girlfriend recently asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I simply replied, “I don’t know.” it made me realize that I don’t live for “stuff.” and that is a good feeling that you can really hang your hat on.

    Ok, I guess I wouldn’t mind a few books.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. I’m with you on this Bruce. Over consumerism has spoilt it for me – if we all agreed to keep Christmas and it’s related activities to December only I might be enthused again. For your interest there was a lovely version of ‘A Christmas Carol’ filmed here in Shrewsbury (UK) back in the 1980’s starring George C Scott, Edward Woodward and Susannah York.

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  18. I think you’re smart to not “keep” Christmas.” Pub gave up the song and dance years ago. The spirit of Christmas should be with us all year, not just one season. So that’s what we do, keep the “spirit” all year. no knife fights in mall parking lots, not last-minute unappreciated gifts, no non-stop vacuuming up pine needles. xo LMA

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    • Another LMA sighting.

      Indeed, ’tis not the season for everyone. The calendar tells me we’re seven days away from the big day. Or eight, if we want to count the after-Christmas shopping deals as the holiday. For me, it could be seventy days away or one.

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