I have to get out of the store. If I don’t, my integrity will succomb to the pre-Christmas sale at Pier Imports. Maybe the poinsetta tableware with gold edges, or the cushions embroidered with a red, green, and gold Merry Christmas. Why not a burlap angel to add to my collection, or a table centre, or another seasonal runner to alternate with the decades old model I purchased in the Christmas store in Chemainus, British Columbia, in 1987. Scented candles would be nice, in tall, staggered holders as sentinels next to the fireplace. Why don’t I have these things, I wonder. Surely, I must need them to have a great Christmas.
“I have to get out,” I tell my husband, who looks relieved. “Otherwise, I’ll buy something I don’t need.” Almost suffocated in the density of Christmas, I head to the till with the object that drew me to the store in the first place, a Christmas card holder (well, a photo holder, actually), not the original reindeer floor model I saw at a colleague’s home a few days before, with filigreed antlers that pinned Christmas card artistry, but a workable wall-mounted alternative that I could use year round. Less of a conversation piece, but practical, without storage challenges. Outside, on the store steps, gulping the preternaturally balmy air on a December day in Saskatchewan with temperatures above freezing, I realize that my own Christmas essentials do not much resemble the look in the store.
In the spirit of year-end lists, then, the keys to my Christmas are :
· making music, mostly for liturgy, with unbelievable musicians and singers, over the decades, including my husband and my children; now, I make music on the harp, too!
· family close, on the years that we can all be together, and on the off years, closeness in spirit always;
· Christmas spirit that imbues the entire year; like summer, Christmas is also a state of mind and spirit that can permeate our actions and thoughts every single day;
· contact with friends far away through cards, email, social media; one of the gifts of technology is the ease of keeping in touch with people who mean so much to us, but live far away;
· a pretty table, with seasonal linens, a table centre, candles, my forty-year old china
and my mother’s silver;
· comfort food, pared down to the core items and each person’s favorites: crêpes, tourtière (now handed down to my daughter, who prepares it better than I do), salmon mousse, my mother’s butter tarts, my daughter’s birthday trifle, turkey with my mother’s meat stuffing and gravy, and, just recently, an addition—chocolate mascarpone crêpes with cherry sauce.
· games that can involve everyone, no matter what their predilections might be, when the joy of playing eclipses winning or losing, especially laughing with our adult children until our bellies hurt as they reconstruct a game our son and his friends developed more than a decade ago;
· the timelessness of Christmas, as weekdays crumble like dry cookies and hours meld in delight especially during
· the interval between Christmas and New Year, reserved for visits, hours on the harp or with books, and, always, the writing, with a fire and tree lights in the background.
That December day, engulfed in the periphery of Christmas, the reminder of the essence of the season for me anchors me. I share that experience with you, and thank you for reading.