As the Holidays approach, I am taking the time to think and reflect about the past year before I plunge into the season. I say plunge because this is such a period of time where I can either be in the happiness or merriment of the season or swim through a turbulent and emotional fraught season of family drama and unhappiness.
I told my now fiance about how I loved Christmas the first Christmas we spent together. He, did not, which was a problem. One of the reasons I love Christmas is because I have made it my own. A long time ago there were some not so pleasant times of Family turbulence and drama surrounding this Holiday. And when that hurricane blew threw, I made a choice to spend the holiday away from the family for the first time. I was 18. It was one of those moments that I cherish. I remember leaving the traditional family get together and going and spending time with people who were struggling with addictions and had no family to go to. I was one of them. And for those hours on Christmas Eve we talked and shared and ate and slept and we all stayed clean together. And since then I have continued to make the Holidays my own.
I started making my own Thanksgiving Dinner at about 22. I became an excellent cook and even put on the feast for my family. I made homemade rolls from scratch, pies from the pumpkin I grew in my garden, fresh cranberry sauce and a turkey that people still ask me how I do it. I would make dinners here in San Diego and invite people to spend Thanksgiving. When I became a vegetarian and figured out I was gluten intolerant, I stopped. And I whined and put on my vegetarian crown and stood on my soap box for a couple of years. But then someone told me how they looked forward to my Thanksgiving Dinner, they usually didn’t go anywhere. So I got off the box and shut up and made dinner again. For some really grateful people.
The first Christmas I spent in San Diego, I had wanted to fly home but couldn’t. My boyfriend at the time and I waited until Christmas Eve to do our shopping and oops, the stores all closed at 4 pm. We had no gifts. But what we did have was something my mother sent to me when she found out I didn’t have a tree. We call it “Tree on a Wall.” It’s a tree shaped, light infested artificial hanging that you can plug in and put on a wall. I have kept it now for 13 years. And the first Christmas that my fiance and I spent together, I had to convince him to let me put it up. You see, he didn’t have Happy Holidays. He usually hid out in his dark man cave until it was all over. I convinced him to let me put up my decorations. When I lit it up, he cried. It was the first time he’d had a Christmas tree in 8 years. I convinced him that Christmas and any Holiday can be his.
You see, what I know now is what is missing usually from the Holiday season is love. And you put love back into the equation and there’s the spark. It doesn’t have to be family that you spend Holidays with, it can be the family that is around you in your friends. It doesn’t have to be tons of presents under the tree, it can be that homemade fudge and cookies that you bring into work, and yes, you work on Christmas Day. You see, even though I can’t eat the cookies or the bread or the cake anymore because I would get very sick, I still make them. I made a friend’s mom absolutely happy when I made her homemade bread on Thanksgiving one year. It came out perfect. I never ate a bite. But it came out that way because it was for her. She needed that bread, her family had made it traditionally for years and there were only a few of them left, it brought her back good memories.
So my message today is to do it for yourself. Make your own Holiday. Have your own tree on a wall, make your own Hanukkah Celebration, Happy Kwanzaa! As I will be working on Christmas, I’ll be seeing lots of people who either are caught up in the happy merriment or pretty miserable. But regardless, it will still be my holiday.