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Christmas Pleasures the Senses
Thanksgiving brought something for which we’re thankful in the return of Grandson Bill from Iraq. Now we’re waist-deep in the preparations for a Clarke Christmas.
We froze our butts while selecting a tree. Most of our cards have been sent. The house has been decorated and I’ve started making and freezing the rounds of pie crust for the mincemeat pies that are part of Bill’s English heritage. I’ve also baked a scrumptious recipe passed down by my mother for Kookie Kake which makes me think of Food Network diva, Paula Dean: “You cream together a pound of butter and a pound of confectioner’s sugar ... add five egg yolks ... mix in half a pound of pecans ...”
My to-do lists are still so long that I’m tempted to say to Bill “Why don’t we quit doing some of this stuff and simplify?"
For example, I make at least eight kinds of cookies. Last night I said, “Are there any cookies that we could do without this year?”
“I can’t think of any, can you?” Sigh.
Many people say, “Christmas comes but once a year - thank God!” I ask myself why in the world do bah-humbuggers spend so much time, energy and money on Christmas if they don’t take joy from it.
No one understood or wrote about the underlying meaning of Christmas better than Charles Dickens. Every December I reread A Christmas Carol to get myself in the proper frame of mind. At the beginning, Ebenezer Scrooge - and isn’t that a wonderful name? - is working in his counting house when his nephew wishes him a merry Christmas. He replies:
"Out upon Merry Christmas! What’s Christmas time but a time for paying bills without money, a time for finding yourself a year older and not an hour richer ... ?"
This year with so many people suffering from a down economy, burdened with debt and losing their savings, homes or jobs, celebrating Christmas may seem frivolous. Scrooge continues, "If I had my will, every idiot who goes about with Merry Christmas on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart."
Dickens understood that the celebration of Christmas is not rational or sensible, but is based on values of the spirit and of the heart rather than those of the counting house. Scrooge’s nephew replies:
"I’m sure I have always thought of Christmas time ... as a good time, a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem to open their shut-up hearts freely ... as if they really were fellow travelers to the grave and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys; and therefore although it has never put a scrap of gold in my pocket, I believe that it does me good ..."
December is always a distillation of the best aspects of my being alive. I strive to live consciously as Henry David Thoreau advised in Walden, and as the days of December pass I’m very aware of the significance of what I do. I love the sights, tastes, touch, scents, and sounds of Christmas. The physicality of the season pleasure my senses, adds texture to my existence and nourishes values that have nothing to do with the materialistic orgy that I see all around me.
Oprah writes in O magazine that she could do the holidays on autopilot. So could I because year after year our Christmas celebration replicates those of the past.
She continues, “I really do believe that something is lost when we simply go through the motions at this time of year.” She believes that Christmas traditions are ultimately about our connections with one another.
I understand what she means. I don’t just go through the motions. What I do is a labor of love that connects me to those who have peopled my past and my present.
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