December 17, 2013
I grew up with mega Christmases. Mega. In high school, one year we had a 16-18 foot Christmas tree. One year my mom got really sick, so my dad took over Christmas present shopping. That year was a particular ordeal, as he had alphabetically coded each gift and they had to be opened in a certain order. It was insane. And it took HOURS. The whole present opening thing was a PROCESS. And in the years leading up to my parent's divorce, the Christmas thing got bigger and more lavish, bewilderingly. My parents started throwing this mega Christmas party every year. Some of their biggest blowouts took place on Christmas eve, when we would go out to dinner at some fancy place. It was all kind of surreal, especially the Christmas when my brother and I ran into David Duchovny (of X-Files fame) in the lobby of a Hawaiian hotel, as we were taking a walk to get away from my parents, who were having some argument.
The first couple of years after my folks divorced, it was just me and my mom; my brother spent the holiday with my dad. We had simple things for Christmas eve dinner, like homemade cream of mushroom soup; one year we had cheese fondue for two, I LOVED IT. It was so calm and peaceful. My mom was fairly miserable because she missed my brother and was still processing the divorce, but I loved those particular Christmases, and I think a large reason why is because of how quiet they were.
A few years after I met Andrew, (my parents were well and good divorced by then), my mom went on a ski trip with one of her best friends. It was the first time I had ever been apart from my mother for Christmas. I was shell shocked. But it turned out to be a really lovely Christmas. I went with Andrew over to his parent's house for Christmas breakfast, and we all had cinnamon rolls and bacon for breakfast. I discovered his family tradition of everyone getting socks in their stockings from Santa, a tradition that my mom-in-law now shares with us and Julia on Christmas morning (Andrew's dad passed away the year we got married).
And then we all sat around, and later, we went for a walk. Drank tea. Hung out. In the later afternoon, Andrew, and me, and his twin brother came back to our place and the guys played video games and we had mac and cheese for dinner. I had this vague sense that I had sort of missed Christmas (b/c there was no big Christmas dinner extravaganza) but I also felt overwhelming peace. No one had fought with each other. It was a happy time. It was CALM.
I'll always remember that Christmas so fondly!
Anyway, while I appreciate the lovely place settings, the wonderful food, the EFFORT that my mom put forth in creating these epic Christmas dinners....I have no desire to replicate them in my own family, and I don't really care for them anymore. I'm now drawn to simple tablescapes, a cozy one dish meal, and more simplicity, more simplicity. 1) because I'm a bit lazy and like to cut corners, and 2) I just feel uncomfortable with too much pomp and fuss.
Julia likes to stay home on Christmas day and although my mom and I don't agree on How To Do Christmas, the way I figure it is....we've had decades of over-the-top Christmases in my family as I grew up, and now it's my turn to do it my way. So I think I might be making a permanent move to having Christmas day dinner at my house.
I found this post VERY inspiring, as I find all of Jodi's posts on practicing simplicity. What do you think? Have you experienced this in your families? Especially families with divorced parents? I've heard many people say, No no no, we're just not driving the kids around from place to place to place anymore. My dad is in Hawaii so we don't have to deal with that scenario, but more and more, the perfect Christmas sounds to me like having a bowl of stew or soup, playing games with my kiddo, and watching 'A Christmas Carol' (the George C. Scott version!!).