Pardon the lack of recipes lately! I’ve been busy getting presents bought, made, and wrapped and fighting off a cold. We won’t have Pennywise Platter Thursday this week, but expect a recipe or two before Christmas. Today I share slightly rambling thoughts I have been having on Christmas gifts and food.
I recently was finishing up some little gifts for our extended family with my three year old daughter. Christmas music was playing, the Christmas tree lights were on, and Elena and I worked in silent enjoyment of our task. At one point I leaned back to watch her and just savor the moment. It was one of those moments that just seemed “right”. Sometimes you can try to create those moments, and they don’t happen, but this time it did.
It got me thinking about what makes Christmas so special. For us personally, it’s a celebration of a little baby born to save the world. But how that’s celebrated varies greatly from family to family. I was thinking about our culture, a culture that is always buying something. Some people have rebelled against this materialistic viewpoint and don’t celebrate or give gifts at all. Just plain tired of it all, they don’t really celebrate Christmas. On one hand you have those who spend a lot of money -even go into debt!- to buy gifts, while on the other side you have those who are a little “grinchy” about Christmas. Neither seems quite right to me.
I think that part of the reason Christmas got out of hand for so many is because they are able to buy everything that they need in daily life. When Christmas rolls around they have no real needs and their Christmas wish lists are full of expensive non-needs (like bigger TV’s). It’s the same way with food. When you are able to eat sweet treats all year round on a consistent, even daily basis, why get excited about Christmas cookies?
Under our Christmas tree you will find presents, many of which were real needs of our family. Oh yes, Elena got some new toys, paint, and” new” blocks from Goodwill. But many of the presents were things that we have been wanting and needing for a while. Christmas gifts are special to us partly because it’s a chance to get a few things that we know that our loved ones are needing/wanting. However, we all know the trouble of buying Christmas gifts for people who “have it all”. What fun is it to buy something for someone who already has everything they need and want?
It’s one of those trade off’s you have. If you don’t have a lot of money, you can’t always buy what you would like to own. That can really be hard sometimes, especially if it’s something that falls in the “need” category. However, it makes it all the sweeter when you do get it.
Speaking of sweets, in times past when sweeteners weren’t as available and as cheap as they are today, sweets were very special. Children who didn’t always get cookies, cakes, and candy were thrilled to get them at holidays. In a way, by giving them sweet things all the time, we take away the fun of holidays.
We are pretty into holidays around here for a variety of reasons (religious affection, family time), but I think that it’s also special to us because we get to savor treats and presents that don’t always happen in this household.
But, my Christmas Grinch readers might ask, “Why give gifts and bake sweet treats at all? Can’t you celebrate without them?” I think that both are signs of affections and have been historically. A well thought out gift expresses love, concern and care. It denotes sacrifice, buying something with hard earned money or spending time making it. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Our gifts generally aren’t. But gifts given among friends and family show affection and care. The desire to make someone other than yourself happy. Yes, it’s true that gift giving has become a chore for many of us. Perhaps part of the reason is because everyone has everything they really need and want (or we can’t afford what they want/need). That can take the joy out of gift giving. Perhaps another small part off it is because we have lost the happiness of gift giving because we forget what gifts are supposed to express. They aren’t meant to feed our appetites for a consumer lifestyle, but rather be marks of affections.So even though we may not have a lot in the budget for Christmas gifts, and I wish that we had more to spend on each other, I try to remember that I can still express love and affection through the gifts I give.
Making special foods for Christmas, sweet or savory, denotes that we have something worth celebrating and that this time of year really is special. As rich as we are compared to many other cultures, we really celebrate much less. Celebrations have always been historically very important in people’s lives. Many of us seem to have lost the joy of them. That’s too bad, because I think that we all need to find time to celebrate, rest, and laugh with family and friends.
So this year, we may not have “big” expensive gifts under the tree, but we have gifts that show that we care and love each other. We many not have everything we “want”, but we have each other. Our relationships aren’t perfect by any means, and many of us may feel strain or a certain lack with other relationships in our lives, but in the end, this Christmas season we have a lot to celebrate, and celebrate we will!