font-family: 'Engagement', cursive;

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Best Christmas... EVER!

A perfectly coordinated, and very
beautiful Christmas tree...  How
many people would it take to
recreate this at your house?
The title of this post, "The Best Christmas...  EVER!" is just one take on the many similar headlines splashed across the covers of lifestyle magazines during this time of year.  Inside, you will find beautiful, perfect photos of ideas that will make these holidays better than EVER!  See those trees on page 42?  They are perfectly coordinated with the decor of the room, each ornament either handmade by you or purchased at great expense at your local department store.  And don't miss the cookies.  That article starts on page 64!  Notice the perfection with which each sugar cookie is frosted, not a speck of icing out of the perfectly piped lines, colors perfectly blended, once again, to match your decor.  And, finally, the five page advertisement...  I mean "list" of must buy gift ideas for those you love, near and far.  If you follow the directions listed in these magazines, you WILL find Yuletide nirvana.

Turn time back about 50 years and peak at the ideas for a "perfect" Christmas found in magazines of old.  You will notice that the trees are certainly themed, some even coordinated with the room in which they rest, but you will also notice how plain they look by today's standards.  In fact, how easy.  You will also find splashy ads and articles about cookies and other festive foods.  But something's amiss...  These sugar cookies look like they were decorated by human beings, maybe even children.  And, finally, gift lists were regular features but, again, the suggestions are more homely than expensive, designed to actually be used by the recipient rather than serve as a token of your exquisite taste.  Of course, these ideas were created at a time when Thanksgiving was still an actual holiday.  I expect it will soon be renamed "Black Friday Eve".

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the holiday magazines of today as much as anyone else.  The ideas can be fun and inspiring, and the newest trends can keep us up to date and fresh.  What bothers me is this idea that by putting endless resources of time, money and energy into the six weeks that end each year, we can have perfect, magic moments with friends and family.  To me, it doesn't have to be the "best" anything.  Just the idea that it's Thanksgiving or Christmas is enough.  How much more magical can it get?  The ornaments on my tree aren't perfectly matched and haven't been bought with an eye toward room coordination.  Most of them have special meaning, like the Christmas castles and houses that my mother has attached to my stocking for the last 38 years.  Or, perhaps the sparkly pinecones of many colors or shiny Santas that my wife tries to find for me every year.  Each December, as we unpack those ornaments, we can laugh and reminisce about so many Christmas' in the past.  It gives our kids the chance to share their own recollections and to listen to stories of their parents as children.

Cookies?  It's the same every year, with a few new additions from time to time.  Candy Cane cookies (the bane of a good parent's Yuletide existence), Thumbprints, Mocha Nut Butterballs, Russian Tea Cakes, Mary's Mother's Snowballs...  They show up again and again.  The frosted sugar cookies?  IF they are made, I can promise you that there are no lines for the icing to be piped within, and they still taste awfully good.

I'm not trying to throw sour grapes.  I know that there are many, many talented people who create what are, in many cases, works of art.  But, when we are looking through the pages and pages of ideal holiday spectaculars, try to remember that they were created by professionals...  with a staff...  and excellent photographers.  Take the good ideas and use them in your own homes, but, for goodness sake, relax.  Don't aim for perfection.  Aim for simple, heartfelt fun.  Ask yourself what you really want the holidays to be for yourself, and for those who come after you.  Should Thanksgiving be a special time to reflect on the many advantages and blessings we have, to share time and a special meal with family and friends?  Or, should it become a mere afterthought to the greater event that's swept the nation...  Black Friday?  And what about Christmas?  Is it only about creating the perfect holiday or buying the perfect gifts?  Or, is it, once again, an ideal to reflect on things larger than ourselves, to share goodwill and to reconnect with humanity?  For me, it's time to strike a balance.  I'll still shop, wrap, decorate and bake like a fiend, but I'll try to do it a bit more mindfully, and put a little less pressure on myself to make this the grandest, most magical holiday ever.

And, aside from all this...  if this year's Christmas is the best EVER...  what are you going to do next year?

No comments:

Post a Comment