***The following should have been broken down into more than one post, but I started rambling…and you know how that goes…
When I was a little kid growing up we always had to sing in Christmas pageant show. I have to admit while I learned the words I didn’t really sing, just sort of mouthed most of the words. Sometimes some sound would come out but those bursts were short and few. Let’s just say I was doing the audience a favor. When I lived in New York I learned a Christmas carol and one Hanukkah song. So when I was six I sang “The Dreidel Song.” While we were not wearing their cute little outfits, it probably did sound like this:
When I think about it, it must have been such a confusing sight to see a Christian Asian Venezuelan American singing a Jewish song. Oy vey, sometimes it’s better not to over think those sort of things. In fact I had another confusing Christmas moment this year. I was in my car listening to the classical radio station, because sometimes a gal needs something soothing to relax her during California drive time, and the DJ/radio personality said that the Christmas carols are a somewhat new invention, from what I can tell the 15th century is the earliest record. He went on to say that Christmas was actually more of a time of quiet reflection.
The idea of a quiet reflection sounded quite lovely to me, especially in stark contrast to the Technicolor Modern Christmas we enjoy. I hope we can all agree it’s become a little less secular and a little more commercial, I remember one year stores were starting to pimp Christmas in July. Folks compete with decorations. I remember winning a cubicle Christmas decorating contest a few years ago, one grumpy loser said it’s because I had so many decorations, wasn’t that the point though? There are present politics, with people trying to interpret hidden meanings from gifts and some trying to outdo others with the presents they give. And then the forced thank you’s from people who you may have felt obliged but were not quite heartfelt in giving a gift to. But it is as important to be a gracious recipient as well as a thoughtful giver. So I try my best to not get involved with present politics and heinous decoration contests.
The DJ got me thinking about the origins of Christmas, I knew that Jesus may not have been born on December 25th, but why it is celebrated on that day is greatly theorized. Some say it’s because of the Roman Winter Solstice or the Germanic Yuletide, others say it’s because the church wanted to control pagan rituals so they created a religious holiday. I also found out a little more about Santa Claus, or who it is based upon, namely Saint Nicholas of Myra. Saint Nicholas was famous for giving gifts to the impoverished. He passed away on December 6th, so you see how the poor guy got caught up in the Christmas legacy. But somehow we went away from celebrating it as the birth of Christ threw in St. Nick, who for some reason ended up with flying reindeer (huh?) and committed to it being about a time of gift giving stress. Does anyone else think that this evolved in a somewhat toxic manner? I mean we created a day called Black Friday, and some people have been tragically killed trying to obtain gifts. But I may be over thinking it.
The lines, the shopping, and sometimes forced cheer can be very stressful. Which makes the idea of Christmas as less of a time for things and more of a time for thought very appealing to me. In fact this year my Christmas was quite subdued, this was by intentional design. And I really enjoyed it. There were some presents, minimal decorating and tons of baking (chocolate chip cookies for the cookie exchange) which was very cathartic. I gave Mom a hand with the hallacas and they were scrumptious. For dinner I made Braised Lamb Shanks and Baked Potatoes as well as a few other things and we stuffed ourselves. My lamb shanks were based on this recipe (but I adjusted some things).
So how were your Christmases I hope they were lovely. I hope no one was stressed out by present politics or competitive decorating. And I hope this ramble didn’t depress you.