My name is Katy and I am a Holiday junkie.
It all started as a child with the wonder of Santa. The magic of Santa was utterly breathtaking and my parents were masterful at the subtle art of making a big splash one day each year. Truly I am grateful for this gift. As I young adult, I discovered the magic of singing Silent Night by candlelight with choirs in a darkened sanctuary. Rather than trading Santa, I kept them together and added the (truly unparalleled) magic of a newborn.
For more than two decades I danced through December as the minister-mom, creating magic at work and at home. I decorated the house on the first Sunday of Advent and planned social events throughout the season. I wrote pageants and Christmas liturgies and new verses to old hymns. I sewed outfits, shopped ’til I dropped and baked cookies. While delivering poinsettias to church members in nursing homes, I stopped at Costco for the roast-beast. Unquestionably the culmination of my holiday fervor was the first year with my beloved, sharing the magic of the lights with her on Christmas Eve and shouting “yes, yes, YES” when Christmas morning dawned with a marriage proposal.
When I was in it, I was in it to win. I multitasked my way into holiday coma year after year, always trying to do it bigger and better. Bigger. And better. The expectation, the preparations, the expectation, the preparation, the expectation, the preparation. At some point you discover that the growth, even when linear, is unsustainable and the weight of the expectation crushes the magic it would deliver. Now in the rearview mirror, the wave of emotions wax and wane between nostalgia, pride and even a wee bit of embarrassment. As I dip my toes in a reflective mode, I feel no small amount of caution.
For me the magic is a drug, and no longer my drug of choice. I decorated a tree this year and bought presents for my beloved and our offspring. I even made stockings for my children at school and shared with them a Santa-led treasure hunt. But as I shop and wrap and bake, I realize that I do so with more intention, more reserve, and less flourish.
I’ve wondered if my downsized attitude is reflective of melancholy or worse, depression. I’ve looked as honestly as I know how at the losses that are real and tangible. No longer a minister, now with grown children, the downsizing is inevitable and so too the grief. The losses are real and I feel the wistfulness, the patina that is nostalgia, but beneath that thin layer is an uncanny sense of peace. Quiet but true. This is a season of letting go and the weightlessness that I feel at this particular juncture is unfamiliar and yet nonetheless gift.
It would be tempting to enshrine this holiday-lite trend with theological significance (read: smug self-righteousness). Although I don’t much value the Puritan’s ban on Christmas, I have an affinity for the Quaker value of simplicity which eschews the drama of the holidays. Yet I suspect that my experience with the dangers of holiday intoxication has less to do with theology and more to do with my addictive tendencies. I can make almost anything into a drug, finding the bane in almost any blessing.
I held this question as I watched the children in my classroom navigate the emotional gauntlet that is a charity Christmas. A colleague’s church had adopted our school and my wee ones were the clear winners, their desks piled high with gifts on the last morning before the holidays. I might whine about remote control cars without batteries and white Barbie dolls, but these tiny cuts (though real) didn’t dampen the mood in the slightest. Showered with shiny plastic, the children squealed with delight. Too I might point out that the wonder expressed was the same wonder I saw when we played with dry ice and again when we made crystal ornaments (read: Borax magic). What was different in the wrapping paper craze is that the adults cheered while the children whirled, truly a beautiful moment that even my critical gaze couldn’t miss.
Moderation is hard to find and my instinct is to all or nothing. My morning coffee is gone now and it is time to engage this Christmas Eve day with balance. I have a wee bit of cleaning and cooking yet to do, tasks that beckons gently. Grateful for the calmness of the morning, I give thanks for the many years of busy blessings that have made the pathway to this quiet place. The emotions are many but the balance is gratitude.
And so it is that the days begin to lengthen once again. One day at a time.