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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Myriad Meanings of Christmas

How did Christmas week sneak up so fast? My goodness. Here we are. My thoughts this week have been about finding a farrier with a portable stockade, so that I can get my Belgian horses’ hoofs trimmed. They refuse to lift for their pedicure so they will have to be trussed up, I’m afraid. But I am thinking now that I should be writing about the celebration of Christmas. Of course, if you have a mobile stockade or you know someone who does...CALL ME. I’m in the book.
What does Christmas mean to you? When my girls were little and my social life revolved around church choir practices (I kid you not), Christmas was a time when we celebrated the birthday of Jesus. We even made him a cake.
As time went on, the children grew up and life got busier, Christmas became the only time when we got to see our extended family relatives.
Grandma Leeson is a very wise woman. The well-respected matriarch of the family, she holds a “command performance” Christmas gathering the first Saturday of December every year. She doesn’t send invitations. She doesn’t even call to see if you are free. It’s the first Saturday of December. You have plans. Be at her house on King George Street by 8pm unless you are hospitalized, extremely contagious, working, or out of the country. There are no other excuses. This understood commitment, like our Fisher Farm Sunday dinner, holds the family together. Without it, we would not be able to keep track of how many children (and now grandchildren!) each of us have. We might even (Heaven forbid) address a Christmas card to a cousin and her (ex) spouse. It’s all about keeping in touch and up-to-date. It’s a good tradition.
For two years now, there has been a ghost in the room at Grandma’s Christmas Party. He used to hold court in the kitchen, telling jokes with the men. He was the very snazzily dressed, self-appointed bartender, and he poured generous drinks. Don’t worry – we all had a D.D. His last Christmas with us, in 2007, Dad had to take a nap halfway through the party. But he didn’t miss the event. Because he wasn’t hospitalized or contagious. Or out of the country.
This year we have children on the edge of finding their own paths in life. That’s scary – more for us than for them, I think. But I would like to think that Christmas with family is still very important to them. They seem to enjoy the endless gatherings.
For the Farmer and I, this is our fourth Christmas together, and I can honestly say we are even more in love today than we were when we married. For us, Christmas marks the passage of time and a celebration of all that we have found together. Man, did we win the lottery.
But there is a shadow hanging over Christmas, which forces us to remain cognizant of the suffering that is being endured around us. We have family missing loved ones and longing for the past. We have extended family members fighting cancer and clinging together in the time they have left. We know of people who have nothing, for whom Christmas is a time of sadness and disappointment. We know people who seem to have everything, but no one to give a gift to or share a meal with this holiday season.
So as we celebrate another year on Earth, we must remember to be sensitive to those who don’t feel like celebrating right now.
Someone once told me that as her children were growing up, she was finding it very difficult to accept the commercialism of Christmas. She hated the lengthy, expensive, detailed Christmas lists and the pressure to live up to the hype. So she decided that each year she would challenge her family, and particularly her teenaged children, to find a way to show the true meaning of Christmas. One year, they went to the local seniors’ home and sang carols while playing the guitar. Another year, they baked Christmas cookies and brought them to the soup kitchen. That day the teens surprised their mother by staying to volunteer as servers. They wanted to experience what they had given to these people who had nothing.
Isn’t that what it’s all about? Another friend of mine told me that she goes to the local seniors’ home with her choir to sing carols during the holidays, but while she is there she asks the administration to choose one elderly woman who might appreciate a visit from someone like her. You see, she lost her mom to cancer a while back, and Christmas is a particularly painful time for her. So she sits with someone who has no one to celebrate with, and they talk and enjoy each other’s company and it’s a mutually gratifying experience. My hope is that we can all find a meaningful way to celebrate this special season.
From all of us at the Fisher Farm, may your holidays be filled with exceptional moments that you will always treasure...and if anyone knows a farrier with a portable stockade, email me!

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