I was thinking today about the American Christmas. I was first exposed to it as a seven year old, when I landed on the shores of America. This, after living in a country that certainly had Christmas on the ground and even Christmas in the air (contrary to what westerners think, we had the trees, the Santa, the music, the holiday foods even in the 1950s, when I was a kid), but it wasn't quite like Christmas in America. People in the States use the term "commercial," often in a derogatory way. Too commercial. Too over the top. Insane. It's all about buying. That's a funny accusation since we now watch the economics of it all and we cross our fingers that there will have been enough buying on Black Friday or Cyber Monday to push us nearer to a recovery.
But this isn't what lead me onto this path of Christmas thought. Instead, as I glanced at the TV listings (for those of us who have just the basics, meaning no cable), I noticed a handful of holiday offerings and I thought -- hmmm. Despite the season, there is no sign of Christmas at the farmhouse.
Which is curious, since as a kid, I was perhaps more than my mother, father, sister, grandma, grandpa -- the one who loved Christmas most. The little atheist kid who could not get enough of Christmas. And when my family moved for a handful of years to the States, I loved it even more: I firmly believed that Americans did Christmas well! Yes, yes, commercial and with puffy Santas and a whole bunch of Christmas specials on TV -- perhaps not having a whole lot of connection to the original Christmas story, but with the spirit and passion of a nation who never did anything tamely.
And when I had my own family, I put on the music early -- a terrific combination of John Rutter, acquired very early on, when my kids were just babes, comingled with the Muppets, and Williams Sonoma Jazz CDs that you could purchase right there as you were paying for the stocking stuffers.
In those days, I had so little time to fully engage the holidays -- go ahead, you try to be spirited when your kids are tots and you're still going to law school and taking finals up until the day just before Christmas Eve.
But there was the music and the tree and the chocolate covered gingerbread from Clasens and and and there were the young child's Christmas books that we bought each year from Border's bookstore.
December rocked with Christmas!
So it's curious that the farmhouse is 'Christmas light.'
Maybe I needed a break. Maybe I found holidays to be too hard.
Or maybe it's that I hang out with a New York Jew who never really understood or liked holidays -- at least not after he turned twelve.
I'm rethinking my position. This year once more I will not put up a tree. I'll join my daughters in their celebrations. But in future years maybe I should moderate my approach. Maybe a small tree? With music playing as I put up a decoration or two? Maybe?
In other news, it was a tough day with all those details that make it impossible to tread lightly through the hours. Wake up early, eat breakfast, in the east room, by the exploding Christmas cactus (it puts on quite the show each year, but it doesn't always get the Christmas dates right).
At dusk, I stop briefly at Paul's cafe and then Ed and I continue home. By the light of the full Beaver Moon (well, one day short, but who can tell)…
I cook up our farmhouse tomatoes and made a bisque out of them and then, as Ed goes out to play his game of volley ball, I turn on the Christmas specials on TV.