Thursday, December 10, 2009

Back again, at long last, with Christmas musing...

Hi Everyone, long time, no write!

I took a three-month break from blogging, while having a love affair with Facebook. I didn't have anything significant to say here, 'cause I was so busy reconnecting with old classmates and childhood friends there. I got hooked on a few game applications as well, and then turned all my friends on to them, and THEN took the plunge into challenging them to play against me. Great fun. So much so, that I didn't have any interest in coming back to this blog and trying to articulate anything. Thus, such a long gap between posts.

Fall is always a busy time of year for me. I teach my students about the American traditions of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, so I find myself extra busy with parties, baking, dressing up, pulling out old photos to show, searching around for cute stickers or new books about those subjects, or making my own visual aids. Fall has passed and winter is beginning to chill the air; and I must write our yearly family Christmas letter to send out (but haven't finished yet) and get presents into the mail (I'm so behind in that!).

At Thanksgiving time, my mom went to my brother's home for a week's stay and we were able to talk via Skype. A suggestion was made that we disband the tradition of giving presents to the main group of adults (which includes everyone now, as all the kids are grown). Many years ago we began the custom of drawing names so that we'd prepare a gift for just one of the eight-to-twelve adults making up our little family circle. This tradition was nice in that every year you'd get a different person to prepare something for, and it enabled us to shower some attention and thought onto a new target. It gave you a different person to thank each year, too, extending the close feeling you shared with each, in turn. Since my husband never does anything for the holiday himself, but is perfectly content to receive a gift from a member of my family, I prepared the gift for his yearly target as well, meaning that I'd shop &/or make something for two people and most years send off two packages. I also prepare a gift package for my son, who moved out on his own in late October, 2006.

When the suggestion was offered during that Skype call that we stop giving gifts, it was said in a way that sounded like the decision was already made, and everyone seemed glad to stop it; everyone but me. It made the little girl within my heart (who looks forward to the holiday, even now, despite not decorating my home, or having anyone I live with care one way or another) feel forlorn, somehow, to think that my family can't even go to the trouble of having one of them send me a gift anymore.

And I tried to explain my feeling to my brother in an e-mail, but all I sounded was whiny, and mercenary, as though getting a present was the only way I could feel Christmas had come. Ever since, I have been mulling this over and over in my mind. Why is getting a gift so important to me? It isn't so much that I have to have a big tree, all decked out with lights (although I loved having one when my son was young) and a million packages crammed underneath. I don't have to have a Christmas brunch like my mom used to make, with fancy egg and sausage casseroles and schtollen (sp?) fruit bread baked from her mother's recipe. I don't require a big turkey dinner later in the day, or even Christmas carols playing in the background. We keep things simple. And I'm not complaining about that. It's a compromise on all the hoopla which happened traditionally at home growing up, sure, but I can live with compromise (while simultaneously envying the family back home).

But no presents? I am loathe to this idea.

In Japan, Christmas is just another working day. My husband always went downstairs to his shop and opened it for business after we'd taken turns opening our few little gifts (my parents or I had prepared for us) and had pancakes for breakfast. I never accepted jobs on the 25th; I kept the day sacred (and forced my husband to keep the morning sacred, anyway). But this year, my co-worker finally forced me to work in the afternoon on Christmas day; I can't afford to turn down the money because December is a month with a lot of payments due. But to imagine the morning without any presents? It makes me want to cry!

But why?

I still do not understand this melancholy. 2009 is the last year to get a gift from a relative other than my mom (and possibly my son, if he remembers to send me something; I'm not holding my breath!). My dad is gone; he was the big Santa in our family, buying tons of useless junk as well as the occasional useful gift, too. But all his shopping and giftwrapping and hiding gifts here and there and all his generosity just made me feel loved. Maybe it's that presents somehow equals LOVE, to me. Which is why the absence of presents and the implied apathy that goes with it, feels like a lack of esteem, somehow. Oh, I don't know...

All I know is, I'm sorry to see the tradition end. It makes me envy everyone in the states for the holiday all the more.

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