Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Minimalist Christmas

My late mother's hypomania liked to kick into gear around holidays. It all seemed fun, as a kid: the twinkle lights everywhere, the ten varieties of sweets she baked, the mountains of gifts on Christmas morning. But a pattern began to emerge as my brain matured: Christmas maximus always led to my mother's eventual meltdown, which could mean anything from her turning mean and locking herself behind her bedroom door to an ambulance being called to take her away.

So . . . you can imagine that for a while, I thought Christmas sucked. A long while.

I tried it every which way: emulating the grandeur of my mother, skipping it all together, spending it with friends, with family. Trees, no trees. Baking, no baking.

Hubby also has less than wonderful Xmas memories, and from the start, we've been finding ways to make ourselves happy on Christmas day. We've developed traditions that make us giggle. Lox and bagels for Christmas breakfast. A firm "no-getting-out-of-your-pajamas-all-day" rule, even if we venture outside. Mimosas with our first cup of coffee. Catnip for awesome kitty antics. Movies. Lots of movies, happy ones only, please.

This year we were rolling along just fine as Christmas drew near. Then, as life would have it, something went wrong and the already dark days turned darker. Old emotional crud churned below the surface. I wallowed for a few days (though kind friends reached out and helped me through). Then one day, I did the old "fake it till you make it" trick and put on my new Pink Martini holiday CD, lit some pine incense, burned a few candles, and dug out last years remnants of wrapping paper. I wrapped gifts for the afternoon, small funny or sweet things I'd found for my large extended family. I packed shipping boxes, because they all live far away.

I felt better.

I dug out my favorite Christmas decoration, a string of pine cone lights I bought in a sweet little Oregon town a few years back. Good memories come prepackaged with those little suckers. I laid them on the mantel and plugged them in.

I asked hubby what his favorite Christmas cookies were. He said gingerbread. Not the crunchy kind, but the soft kind. I found a great recipe. I went to the store for ingredients. I picked up a rosemary tree, brought it home and decorated it with some of last year's ribbon remnants.

And voila! This year, I will enjoy minimalist Christmas: one favorite decoration, a rosemary plant that will be planted in the earth this spring, some soft gingerbread cookies. One husband, who understands. Bagels and lox on Christmas morning, a mimosa. Candles. Lots of candles. Maybe next year I will need more, but for now, this is perfect.

Happy Christmas, everyone, whatever that means to you. I hope you find those things that make it most meaningful and enjoyable, light and love filled, and in the spirit of peace and harmony for all.


  1. Hurray for finding the spirit! My Christmas decorations are the handmade ones from the kids I tutor, Christmas cards from far-flung friends and family, a wreath by the door, and a big poinsettia. I may adopt the all-day pj rule; what a great tradition. Peace on earth just may be possible if everyone has to stay in their pajamas for one full day. Thank you for sharing these beautiful holiday reflections.

  2. My ability to bake has always been suspect although intentions were always good. My daughter (she's 12) would love for me to do the sugar cookie thing, but halfway through she's disappeared and I'm frosting them all by myself. So, these days,I make a smokin' Creme Brulee Martini and call it good. Love the idea of pajamas all day!

    Merry Christmas, Jennie Shortridge!

    I think you got it just right.

  3. Creme Brulee Martini?!?! Recipe please. :-)
    Happy New Year!