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Friday, December 16, 2005


This is my LIVE WRITE newspaper column for next week - happy to have any feedback from you writers out there, before I send it off...

Have you noticed it’s the Christmas season? Or have you been hiding in the basement, with no contact with the outside world? For people of belief, the season of Christmas or the Festival of Light or Hanukah, is a spiritual time. For most of us, it’s also a welcome break from school or work – a time to calmly rest, to enjoy the company of loved ones, to take care of our health…to be at peace. Or is it? If a visitor from another galaxy dropped in this month and was among us quietly watching, her report would be interesting.

For example, many humans cut down or buy a small green tree, drag it into their house, prop it up, and then cover it with baubles and lights. Perhaps it’s a new pet of some sort? It certainly isn’t loved for long, as it soon ends up dragged out the door, in a shower of dead needles.

There is a gifting ritual also. Most females begin hunting and gathering gifts early in December and then wrap them in colorful, festive paper. Many males perform the same ritual in the final one or two days before the giving event … Males and females alike march from store to store with hopeful faces that later turn to panic and fatigue. Some become cranky. Their credit cards are warm from use. This is all enacted while listening to recorded seasonal songs, broadcast from every corner. The lyrics speak of peace, joy, light and happy family times.

The eating ritual is unusual as well. Humans love to eat and drink – they often do both for pleasure rather than for nourishment. However, it’s difficult to explain their late December culinary rituals, which include:

Drink as much as you can, especially eggnog with rum, which only appears in this season.

Use butter and icing sugar to create as many shapes as possible – bake and eat.

Avoid carrot sticks. In fact, if you see carrots on a buffet table, head down the street to where they’re serving cheese balls and smoked salmon.

Gravy is not a food itself, but meant to be poured over everything else. Make a volcano with your mashed potatoes… fill with gravy, eat it, fill it again, and so on…

Mention how lovely the fruitcake is, and then secretly hide your slice somewhere in a drawer or behind a curtain.

Do not be content until your stomach aches and you feel the need to unbutton your pants or skirt and lie prone. Have many naps between eating.

Many of us probably recognize ourselves in this alien visitor’s report. There are, of course, ways to celebrate that are more suited to good health and a spirit of peace.

My teenage daughter recently asked her family, “Would any of you mind if I gave you a homemade gift for Christmas this year?” There was an immediate chorus of “No, we would love it!” Making gifts instead of running with the shopping herd is one tip for a less stressful, less expensive and perhaps, more appreciated holiday.

A wise person, with free days and friends and family on hand, might sleep more, read a good book or go to a ski hill. They might enjoy good conversation, sing together and revive family stories. If you want to honour an ancient tradition - invite someone lonely or hungry to join your festivities and warm, delicious meals.

As with so many things in life, it’s all about balance. It was summed up nicely by the Peanuts character Lucy, “All I really need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt.”

I like the style of the article and the ending which sums it up completely. My wife finds Christmas particularly stressful for the reasons you mention.

One tip to consider giving your readers who dread the searching for Christmas presents is to choose a different Christmas theme each year.

Let’s say this year it's books, meaning your going to request an udate on your friends and families latest interests, a rewarding 2 way communication.

Whatever the theme be it music, art, clothes,food etc it may enable you to approach christmas in a more creative and stisfying manner !! by buying or making something of known interest !!.
Gary, I think it's good to go. I enjoyed it. I really liked the point about simplifying Christmas. I think that will strike a chord among many of your readers. (Someone actually wrote a My Turn essay about that same thing in Newsweek this week. She's making ALL of her gifts this year and from now on. I love that idea.)

I wonder what your daughter will make.
Gary, I think this looks great, and I know your readers will find something of themselves in it. I know I did as I have been running to and fro this week trying to find Secret Santa gifts for work. I love the idea of the alien. So clever. Also, I think I am guilty of the mashed potato volcano thing. :-)

I think your daughter sounds like a great kid. She obviously has escaped being caught up in the consumer culture of our day which is no easy task. Sounds like you truly have something to celebrate.
Don't change anything Gary, it's perfect. I like the ironic writing and recognized much of the alien observation (especially on the gravy part:-)

Wonder how Alien Christmas must look like as she seemed somewhat surprized.
Gary: I love it. You're absolutely correct: The connection betwen a holiday meal and the enjoyment of friends and family is intertwined. I am very guilty of letting the rush and stress of gift "hunting" get to me, too. But one of my greatest pleasures in life, especially at the holidays -- despite all of the work it entails, especially with a very busy 3 yr old -- is making meals for guests. I always make a dessert treat of some kind for my sisters and their families and for my parents at Christmas, plus I am the daughter that has hosted pretty much all holiday dinners since my husband and I purchased our home in 2001.
It is work, but I absolutely adore making a yummy meal for someone and sharing that with them. The relationship is reciprocal: They receive a great meal and I receive the satisfaction that comes from serving that meal and making them happy... and I am told that I'm a pretty damn good cook, too :)
Funny and true.

This is my first visit. I discovered you on Lindsay's blog just now. Isn't his new granddaughter beautiful?

I have a family friendly blog called rocrebelgranny.blogspot.com
You'd be most welcome there.

I'm not a bonafide member of Amnesty Int'l but I'm on their email list, sign almost everything they send me, and contribute a little when I can.
rejoice no matter of your faith. tis the season to enjoy.
On a completely unrelated note: I just noticed that you added me to your list of blogs you watch! You just made my day! eeeee (lol) thanks Gary! :)
Or to quote something another blogger said on Blogging Baby a few weeks ago (talking about babies and their "proper" care).

You feed them and you love them. Everything else is just "sprinkles".
this is very good. you write very well, Gary.
Thanks all... and Granny, you are a quote meister!

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