Compared with Christmas memories, this year's will be rather quiet for me. No family gathering, no fancy gifts (although I did buy myself a refrigerator to replace the tiny dying one), no festive decorations. I'll be getting together with a few friends later today to hoist a few mugs of cheer, but we frequently do that regardless of holidays. I am enjoying Egg Nog (with a little brandy), which is one of my favorite holiday treats. But that's about it for Christmas 2009.
Christmas traditions haven't been the same since my Father passed away. While my Mom tried to carry on the traditions, she never had the enthusiasm for Christmas that Dad had. Perhaps it was because he grew up in poverty, but Dad embraced Christmas as a spectacle and embraced every extravagance that he possibly could indulge. The grandest decorations, the most indulgent cuisine, and (as much as possible) the most heartfelt gifts were Dad's delight. He also, despite being a lifelong republican, loved making charitable contributions. The salvation army, food banks, and homeless shelters all received the benefits of Dad's seasonal largess. Dad was never wealthy, but his heart was rich.
My Mom was also a very generous soul, but she never quite had the enthusiasm for Christmas that Dad had. The family gatherings after Dad's passing were still warm and loving, but not the "celebration" of years prior. Now that Mom has passed (first Christmas without her; don't mean to be maudlin) the remaining family didn't even have the urge to gather. While both of my sisters invited me to join them for the holidays, it was more an act of formality than a heartfelt "we want to be together". Because I'm still recovering from surgery, I was able to politely decline and save us all the awkward moments.
I'm grateful that this year I'm in a position to make some charitable gifts, and I'm happy to have done so. Having spent so many years in poverty myself, it feels really good to be able to share. So that's been my gift giving this year. What otherwise might be a melancholy Christmas feels a little warmer in knowing that I've tried to give to folks what and where I can, and I may not be done yet. I think I'll spend part of my afternoon looking for homeless folk in need of a little cheer. It's the least I can do.
(and then I'll watch some football; yeah, I'm that shallow)
Here's wishing you and yours a warm happy holiday!