*Disclaimer: this is a long one as I've been pondering this for the last two weeks. Read on at your own peril.*
Earlier this week I was feeling kind of weird. I really love the December season and I'm usually up for it all, but this year I just couldn't seem to find the spirit of it. I'm definitely looking forward to going home but that warm tummy feeling of the christmas season wasn't there!
First, a justification. I don't consider myself Catholic even though our parents raised us in the church. I just don't buy any of it and, for a few years, December was a difficult time for me because I tried and tried to reconcile the joy I do experience at this time of year with a high level of unease with and distrust of organized religion. But here it is: the christmas season and all its rites outside the churchy stuff are some of the few rituals left in my life that help mark the passing of time and that celebrate traditions. I've abandoned just about every other seasonal ritual upheld by the church like Easter, etc., but christmas for me still holds the comfort of annual repetition and celebration, of the family coming together and traditions maintained. I can support that! I'm at ease with my own beliefs now and christmas finally fits right in as a seasonal ritual that for me has nothing to do with spirituality and everything to do with love between friends and family.
Back to my first point, with all this loving tradition to look forward to, I was having a hard time catching the spirit which for me is unusual. Definitely it is the work looming ahead in January that is making it hard for me to take a break right now. It feels more like I should be riding the wave of momentum to work hard on the workshops and really gear down to get shit done. But suddenly I have to break the momentum and shift focus from work to seasonal ritual. It sucks but I was really finding that shift difficult.
So I pulled out the big guns. Last weekend I made a family classic, date snowballs, to take to a party. In our family when the house fills with the smell of melting dates and carmelized brown sugar it's an olfactory cue that the holidays have arrived. Maybe it was the organic rice crisps I used instead of good old Rice Krispies but the snowballs lacked a certain something so the spirit eluded me.
Rocco and I went to the Chor Leoni Men's Choir christmas concert on Tuesday night. They sang some beautiful gregorian chants and new carols by Canadian composers, and a children's choir came in for a few songs too. The Ryerson United Church was lit with candles and soft white light; ceramic doves were in every nook and cranny and the audience was dressed in its holiday best. How could this not fill me with seasonal cheer? Well I loved the concert, but it didn't do it for me.
A couple days ago I was puttering about the house doing some knitting and planning holiday food and I suddenly started craving the music of my mom's house around this time of year: Handel's Messiah and Pavarotti singing Oh Holy Night. I know, I know, back to the churchy stuff. But it's all part of the ritual! It turns out that Rocco has a version of the Messiah on his iTunes so I cranked it up. I could sing along with a line or two since we sang a few sections of the Messiah with my high school choir, and of course I remember going to see my mom sing the Messiah at Southminster United in Lethbridge as a child. Again, the strategy failed and instead I felt like my attempts at holiday creation were hollow and false.
But something did do it. I am in the spirit now and I even did the "going home for the holidays" dance this morning when I bounded out of bed. What on earth could have triggered it for me, you ask? Where Handel and snowballs and ceramic doves weren't up to the challenge?
Brussel sprouts! Rocco's office party was last night and every year they do a potluck. We signed up to bring an appetizer and a veggie side - mostly to ensure I would have something to eat there since a colleague had signed up early to bring an Entire Roasted Pig, head and all. Yes, I was concerned. Anyway, back to the sprouts. I figured if someone had the audacity to bring an Entire Pig, then I had the audacity to bring every child's family dinner nightmare, the dreaded sprout. When Rocco told one guy what we were bringing to the party the guy made the face we all know, brussel sprout face. He was not impressed. Oh well, sucks to be him!
Rocco came home at lunch yesterday to help prepare the sprouts for roasting. I bought 2.5kgs of fresh sprouts (!) and we sat at the kitchen table eating grilled cheese sandwiches and trimming and chopping this massive mound of brassica goodness. As we worked our way through the pile, I could feel myself starting to settle into the excitement of the season. The familiar feeling of anticipation and warmth grew in my belly as I imagined the table at home absolutely loaded with fabulous food, the kitchen steamy with great smells and frantic activity and the counter littered with short glasses of gin and tonic abandoned halfway through then replaced by a new glass when the original can't be identified. Yes, I'm ready!
I'm ready to see all my wonderful friends and family in Alberta. I'm ready to swill beer with buddies while their children wander around our legs and to play a game of Scrabble with Rocco on christmas eve while the house is quiet since others have gone to midnight mass. I'm ready to face the hordes of travelers at the airport and my mother foisting yet another christmas ornament on me as she tries to pare down her own collection. There will undoubtedly be an impromptu performance of a song or two from an MGM musical by me and my sisters, and at least one trip to Coco Pazzo for pasta chips and pizza when everyone is so over home cooking. My dad will sit on the edge of the sofa arm and get excited about a soccer game and we'll play pass the phone while yelling down the line at our Irish relatives who will be in their cups. Yep, I'm ready for christmas. Bring it on!
Happy holidays everyone!