However, having lots of kids makes you re-think the whole Yule Tide experience … for many reasons.
Having a husband who is very sensitive to noise, clutter, and chaos adds to the need to re-think things even more!
For many years Christmas has felt like a sweet, delicious, and yet overwhelming sandwich - with me being stuck between what makes my kids happy, and what my husband needs during this very significant time of year. This is tricky.
On one hand I rejoice in hearing my boisterous girls belting out Christmas carols as they bake in the kitchen with great fervour and feeling, and on the other hand, I must rein them in, for the sake of my husband’s sanity. The whole holiday is kind of like that…
I wish I could profess to having some magical answer…but I cannot. I have held to the premise that if I keep Christmas as simple and “real” as possible there will be “peace on Earth” - at least in our home? But it never really seems to work out that way… So, here is my list of efforts:
We wait until Dec. the 23rd to go out into our fields and cut down a tree (in order to keep the kids calm leading up the the 25th, and to try and embrace the idea of 12 Days of Christmas - a celebration from the 24th to January the 6th).
Instead of playing Christmas music from Halloween on to Dec. 25th, we play “Advent music”. This music is more about the winter and the waiting for Christmas - rather than all that “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” stuff.
We hardly decorate our home (compared to what you see on the Canadian Tire flyers). I just simply put natural cedar branches … pretty much EVERYWHERE, lots of candles, and a nativity set a friend gave us a long time ago. Oh … and, hand-cut snow flakes that my kids make.
We eat very little (comparatively) on Christmas eve - just a few things that we do not eat at any other time of year - a bit of smoked salmon, shrimp, smoked cheese, brie (with wishy, pecans, brown sugar and butter) — my favourite, and artichoke dip. We also drink our home made Baileys and that really cheap (fake) champagne.
And strangely enough, over the years we have evolved into not have a big Christmas Day dinner either - we eat heavy in the morning (quiche and home made cinnamon buns, and left overs from Christmas Eve) This year we just had some sliced beef and asparagus for Christmas dinner.
Gifts are kept at a minimal. For as long as I can remember, we have given each child one gift from “us”, and one gift from St. Nicholas. Lately, each child picks a name and they fill each other’s stockings for me ( I love this new tradition!!!)
The day before Christmas is the magical time for our family for sure! In the afternoon, we drive our gifts (of home made Bailey’s) to the homes of our friends, then we take a turkey or two, some home-made cookies, butter, cream and chocolate to our local soup kitchen for homeless men…and then we go to church. So… no crazy parties, not lots of company etc. Just “us”.
When we get home that night, all the candles are lit (and that are a LOT of candles), baby Jesus is put in the manger, we finally play our favourite Christmas album, we dance, we drink (too much) and eat lovely food. Later that night, my husband reads “The Night Before Christmas” and everyone heads to bed. I stay up and put all the gifts under the tree (up until this time there are no gifts under the tree).
On Christmas Day, my parents come in the morning, and our neighbours pop over for a drink late in the afternoon. We usually try to go for a walk - or skate on the river before we eat dinner, and we usually play games that night.
So, in my mind, I have done quite a bit to try and keep our Christmas as “real” as possible - as low key, and non commercial as possible. And, let’s be honest, for the most part - the Mother is the “designer” of Christmas - she is the “keeper” of the celebration.
However, despite all my efforts to keep things chill - the anticipation and excitement of the kids, and the need for calm and tidiness of my husband just clash so loudly each year!!!. I feel I am always letting some one down at one point or another…
Why am I saying all this?
Well, it’s not to complain. I say this because I assume other mothers are walking the same tight rope each year…
I feel that this beautiful, poignant and truly magical celebration … the celebration of light in the darkest time of the year (literally) is a microcosm of our whole life! Our lives are full of beauty and truth and goodness, and as hard as we may try to capture that and to protect and nurture that….we will always struggle, we will always strain to keep balance, to stay true. And nothing created or designed by “us” will ever be perfect…no matter how hard we may try to do so….And, maybe in the end it is really only that person who is trying to design these experiences (who has this “perfect” ideal in their head) that sees it as less than perfect?