I have finally finished all the preparations for our family Christmas celebrations. The Novak family– all two of us, celebrate in the traditional European Catholic tradition on Christmas Eve. We go up the road to my “uncle” Klaus where my four cousins and their families converge on the house to await the arrival of the angels with gifts from the Christ Child. No Santa at this event. After a few hours of joyous chaos everyone travels home and –whoosh– in a blink of an eye all the careful preparations vanish and all that remains is silence, scads of wrapping paper and dirty dishes.
Celebrating on Christmas Eve has made things really very simple for my cousins. This frees them up the next day to welcome Santa and celebrate with their adopted families — or “outlaws”. No double turkey feasts, manic driving from family to family for this lucky brood.
But what of those left behind? I am an only child. Worse still, I have managed successfully to remain single (just never seemed to have the knack to “close the deal” as they say). My father died over 22 years ago. My mother was one of nine children with a sister Dorin living up the road. The rest of the family live overseas. My aunt Dorin died of cancer three years ago leaving our dear “uncle” Klaus struggling quite valiantly, to make a go of it as a bachelor after so many years of marriage. In the past, we would “pad” our Christmas Day gathering with an old priest, or elderly friends who were in the same boat. However, for the past three years, Christmas Day has been a pretty sad celebration — the three lonely hearts sitting down to a “feast” of stuffed cornish hen. It’s almost “Dickensian” in it’s misery!
The insanity of the “Holiday” hoopla revolves around a cacophony of sound, lights, frenetic activity and encouragement for nothing less than a hyperbolic mein of good spirits. For those who don’t have family, gaggles of eager faced children, or even friends (if you manage to live long enough, you can even out live your roster of friends!), there is little joy. In fact, at times all the insanity simply serves to reinforce all the things that you don’t have.
Now put away the hankies. This rambling has a happy ending. My good friend Karen, also a spinster (we are proud of the term, not to worry, I don’t offend!) was bemoaning a similar set of challenges at Christmas. Her recently widowed mother will be with her from Vancouver. Her sister, a single mother with a handsome but already quite adult young son were struggling with how to make their day a little brighter. Eureka! Why not combine our two little families and come together for the Christmas celebration? Let’s start a new tradition, we chirped!
Tomorrow evening we will make our way to Karen’s new house. My “uncle” Klaus will be bringing some sparkling wine, Karin’s sister Lesley will bring an appetizer, my mother will bring some cheese and crackers and I have made a delicious lemon mousse. With good friends and our families around us, we will create a new tradition and dispel the sadness left behind from those we have loved and lost. Karen and her mother are responsible for preparing our “turkey and fixings”. Our Christmas feast promises to be a wonderful one — contributed to by us all. We are truly blessed!
As you gather around with those you love, take a moment to call someone who might be in need of a friendly voice, or pop over to a lonely neighbour with a few cookies or a jar of jam just to share in the broader sense of family. It can make all the difference in the world.
If, as Herod, we fill our lives with things and must fill every moment of our lives with action, when will we have the time to make the long, slow journey across the desert as did the Magi? Or sit and watch the stars as did the shepherds? Or brood over the coming of the child as did Mary? For each one of us, there is a desert to travel. A star to discover. And a being within to bring to life. — author unknown
Wishing you all the blessings of this Christmas celebration!