I caught myself red-handed earlier this week. It was somewhere between the excessive consumption of ginger cookies and the laundry. I actually caught myself hoping that Christmas would be “perfect.”
Catching myself shooting for perfection is a wake-up call for me these days, so I set my expectations on to mull with the cider. The word that eventually bubbled up was “character;” I want a Christmas with character.
In Anne Lamott’s book on writing, Bird by Bird, she says about characters in our writing, “Now, a person’s faults are largely what make him or her likeable.” (p.50) I think that is true not just for people, but for homes and events and relationships. Of course, we spoil our appreciation of all that lovable imperfection when we demand flawlessness.
At first, thinking about a Christmas with “character” started me down another road of unrealistic expectations. Does creating character require, for example, bungee jumping in Santa suits? How creative do I need to be to make Christmas character-filled?
At that point, another take on “character” came to me. Each Christmas has its own character. I do have a role in shaping that, but I am not the supreme being that makes Christmas what I want it to be. In fact, I enjoy Christmas most when I step back and allow it to take on the shape that it wants, the character that comes alive in part from what each family member and friend brings to it, and in part from what is beyond the control of any of us. But in the end, as a child is more than just parts of dad and parts of mom, an special time like Christmas seems to have an individual breath and life that is more than just what we put into it. And just like with a child, trying to control Christmas doesn’t go so well; it causes me to miss out on watching and enjoying what it is becoming in its own right.
So I’m remembering the characters of past Christmases. The year that Christmas was during Ramadan, and we were trying to juggle being part of Bahraini culture with celebrating our own traditions. The year that someone put curry in the turkey gravy. The year that I freaked out in the grocery store on Christmas eve because there were shiny Christmas decorations dangling over the ladies covered in black, and the speakers were literally blasting out “Feliz Navidad,” while the guys behind the meat counter sported red Santa hats. The year a whole gang of us had a sleepover at a friend’s house on Christmas Eve and opened our stockings together the next morning. Every year, singing “Silent Night” holding lit candles with a room full of Christians and Muslims who loved us and wanted to share our holiday with us.
This year, Christmas’s character is both happy and sad for us, and I appreciate both. I am grateful for the sadness because I have special friends and beautiful memories in Bahrain to miss. And I am savoring the incredible sweetness of being with family in America for Christmas. Feeling one allows me to feel the other more fully, and vice versa. And I am trying to sit back and enjoy experiencing this Christmas for what it is.
I’d love for you to share about the character of your Christmas in the comments.
Happy Holidays to all of you!