My Holiday Wish
by Helen K. Beard
“Christmas stuff already!” Taylor said. “Halloween’s not even over yet!”
My daughter was standing in the middle of our local supermarket’s main aisle with her hands on her hips. She and her friend had just finished watching what to her was the perfect Halloween movie. All the garland and glitter that had been tossed around the store was an assault on her teenage senses. Where were the ghosts and ghouls? This was too much planning ahead and not enough living in the moment, and for her the moment was all about Halloween. Emerging from the store empty handed after a last-minute pumpkin search, I had to agree.
Taylor does not dislike Christmas. In fact, she’s quite enthusiastic about it in its proper time. That’s why in our house, the Christmas season begins one minute after Thanksgiving, but no sooner.
No Christmas video is watched, no hall is decked, no carol is sung until the parade passes by and the Thanksgiving feast has become Friday’s leftovers. This is the law according to Taylor, and we abide by it with affection for her and for its inherent wisdom. We have learned to savor and appreciate each celebration in its own time without trying to brace ourselves for the next one. (Although I’m sure she won’t mind that I’ve already secretly stashed a few presents I’ve been collecting since September — a record for me.)
This little rule has given us huge rewards. Living each Halloween, each Thanksgiving, each Christmas moment has added so much color and texture to each holiday that I can only feel richer when it passes. What could be a mad rush through the seasons has been replaced by a parade of little traditions that make every holiday a treasured gift.
For all the waiting we impose upon it, Christmastime has become an especially wonderful time of year for our family. The Friday after Thanksgiving, while many others are hunting for bargains, you’ll find us in our favorite pajamas, alternately lolling about watching Christmas movies and grazing on leftovers. Any decorating, list making, shopping or other physical activity is suspended until Saturday. If you stop by, bring your slippers and a pillow. Our first day of Christmas is spent in hibernation.
Other more strenuous events follow, but they all center on enjoying the season together. Yes, we shop and it can be hectic, but we try to have fun by doing what we call Zen shopping. Stop at a store; help each other pick out something; go have a hot chocolate. Go to another store or two; find something cool; deliver cookies to a friend. Shop some more; visit another friend; look for Christmas decorations on the way home.
Sometimes, we take advantage of our Bay roots and find a place to watch the water. On clear nights, the reflected moon and stars, the garland of foam on the waves and the passing boats create an ever-changing holiday light show that makes Christmas by the Chesapeake even more beautiful and extraordinary.
Every way that my family chooses to share together in the holiday has added to its tapestry. One year, Taylor decided to make Christmas Eve brunch based on some colonial recipes she had learned. She has been making this mini-feast for us every year since then. We also make paintbrush cookies on Christmas Eve, following a tradition started when Taylor and her brother, Bud, were very young. Bud has made it his job to create the Christmas dinner centerpiece and other decorations we use. Taylor likes to create a different Christmas display every year. And my husband Warren has painted a crèche that we use to continue traditions started when he was growing up.
All of these things — and especially the warmth of my family around me — have helped me learn to live in the moment and enjoy the true beauty of the holiday season. With everything I have, there is only one wish I would make: Whatever holiday you are about to celebrate — Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan, Kwanzaa or another — may you find grace in each treasured moment and peace in the arms of your family and friends.
Helen Beard writes from Huntingtown. In July, she reflected on Bay Critters Dancing.