Another year, another holiday season. Give. Give. Give. But it isn't the presents under the tree that I look forward to most, unlike those of (many) years past. From the awe of bounding down the stairs to snatch the first glimpse of wrapped gifts from "Santa"--and the partially nibbled carrots and fully-eaten cookies--to the awe of the gift of others, Christmas has evolved, but only because I have, too.
I won't discount the pleasure I have in giving the "perfect gift," that gift you just know won't disappoint. But I will say, if all I had was the people who mean most to me, the crackle and smell of a wood-burning fire, mashed with a little "Ruddy the red-nosed reindeer, you'll go down in history..." rocking around a freshly-cut balsam, my grown self would agree that "Santa did come!"
In the rush to make sure that presents were bought and sent and packaged, I've found there are holiday favorites I'm missing, things that say "happy holidays" to me more than any glossy package. Like finding the least prickly tree that's not too big, not too small, and as close to perfectly symmetrical as possible (although you can always turn the "bad side" toward the wall). It's filling my home with the smell of peppermint, cinnamon...pure confection...and hovering over the first batch of chocolate chip cookies; waiting for the dough to cool just enough to hold it together to make it to your mouth without slowly bending in half, and short enough to keep the chips in ooey-gooey form.
With the hype of the holidays there should be more taken from them than just the giving of gifts. They should include spending time with family--the family you were born into and those who've become "family" along the way--and friends...old and new. It's about the people, the traditions, the memories. Christmas has always been a guarantee that I'll see those that have staked a claim to a piece of my heart...and that my stocking will have gum and lip gloss. It's the former that I value most, but even the traditional stocking stuffers work their way into tradition. Into a day I've enjoyed since birth, but only began to remember from age 5. And as the years have past, I've realized just how special the holidays are.
Being that I don't live close to family or even some of my closest friends, the holiday season of the past 10 years or so have brought the joy of knowing that I'll return to the familiar place I still call "home." A place I knew well for 17 years. And while I've stopped growing, the trees that I danced around and hung from as a youth have grown taller, marking the time past. Each return home I'm flooded with memories I've created around that exact time in all the years leading up to that point; it's the memories that will last much longer than any material gift given. My nostalgic nature had, at one point, even brought me to slip a piece of wrapping paper into my stocking to stay until December 25 of the next year: a physical object to trigger the intangible of the Christmas before.
This season (and for those that follow), make the extra effort to enjoy the moments the holidays offer, as they are the most honest and "perfect gifts" given. The laughs. The drinks with old friends. The board game with a sibling. Even the embrace from the black sheep of the family, because no matter how you cut it, it's a hug people, and we could all benefit from giving and receiving a few more of them...
Cheers to you and yours!