Thursday, December 22, 2011

Bah, humbug!

Christmas used to be one of my favorite times of the year.  I still remember Christmases at home when I was small.  We  had a tree loaded with time-honored ornaments, many of them home-made.   When I was about six, my sister, Thelma, brought a small blue and white owl to hang on the tree.  I still have it with a note added by my mother after  Thelma's death,  noting the date and place.  It hung on our family Christmas tree for almost seventy-five years until  I moved to Lakeport and and quit putting up Christmas trees. We always had the same candy and nuts, which mother divided into separate bags, so we each had our own stash for the holidays.  There were mint pillows and hard candies and nougat cremes and Brazil nuts, filberts and walnuts.  I don't remember baking frenzies or big dinners, although I think Mother made Scotch shortbread for my father and we always had big batches of homemade fudge.  I was also about  six when I learned the truth about Santa Claus. He arrived with a doll that I had my heart set on that cried "Mama!" when you tipped her over and in the excitement I forgot everything else.  Later, I went into the kitchen to get a drink of water and saw Thelma and realized that she had missed seeing Santa Claus!  I was so overcome by remorse that I had forgotten to call her that they had to tell me the real truth.....Thelma was Santa Claus.

When my own kids were small, Christmas was a BIG DEAL.  I loved the warmth and coziness of it.  Lights everywhere, candles and glitters and sparkles.  Fires in the fireplaces, huge trees loaded with ornaments and lights, the smell of cookies baking and roasts browning and glögg warming on the stove.  The avalanche of Christmas cards from old friends and family members not often in contact.  The beautiful Christmas wrapping papers and exciting packages piled under the tree.  The runs to Mac's drugstore for last-minute items. The sumptuous holiday meals.  When we were a young family just starting out and money was scarce, I used to collect grocery-store coupons. (Still do!) This money I saved all year in a special envelope and at Christmas-time we had Maine lobsters for dinner.

Now-a-days the sparkle of Christmas has faded for me.  I am not a religious person, so that aspect was never a factor in this holiday.  Rather it was the feeling of fellowship and peace and goodwill that  surrounded the season.  Joy.  The beautiful music.  The ancient traditions and customs and superstitions that gave it such a special aura.  Today it seems to have resolved into one giant shopping spree where people spend money they don't have on merchandise nobody really needs.  Our newspapers have  morphed into Macy ads with snippets of news tucked along the borders.  I think if Macy suddenly pulled all its ads, the front section of the SF Chronicle would be reduced to three pages. The stock market rises and falls on the forecasts of how much the public is going to blow on Christmas this year.  Catalogs for Christmas cards begin arriving in August.  Christmas decorations are now in place  before the Halloween merchandise hits the shelves.  Buy! Buy! Consume! Consume!  Where is the humble Christmas story in all this?

Whatever the cause, the magic has gone out of Christmas for me.  Maybe it's because the children are gone, grown into men and women no longer wide-eyed with wonder and excitement at the holiday preparations. Maybe it's the endless, soulless commercialism, maybe it's the cynicism  that pervades so much of our society.  Maybe it's because I am growing old and grouchy.  Annie Rooney rides again!  Please don't let this sour diatribe put a pall on your celebrations.  As I have so often said, this blog is how I let off steam and I write it strictly for me.  No one else need read it.

May your Christmas be merry and bright and may the bills that arrive in January be within your budget!