I am loving the holiday season this year. I realized about a month ago that I wanted to be very intentional about how I spent my time over the holidays. I decided I will do less of what I don't enjoy, like shopping, and joined with my family to give donations to Heifer International in each other's honor in lieu of gifts. Dh will get the gift he asks for every year: a homemade be-all-end-all fruitcake. And I am giving my friends the pear jam I made in September or some other homemade treats. I am doing more things I love like hosting gatherings, cooking and baking, listening to Christmas music, reading Christmas-themed stories and watching Christmas movies.
Last weekend was full of the holiday cheer I'm seeking this year. On Saturday our family went to the local farmer's market and got a beautiful tree and wreath. And a friend had set up an arts and crafts station and kindly engaged G in making a holiday card - complete with paint, stamps, stickers and bows! Needless to say, his intended recipient for the card, his grammy, was delighted with it. We decorated the tree with ornaments my grandmother made for me over 30 years ago. They are extraordinarily beautiful - hand sewn and embroidered - mostly characters from children's books like The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland and A Christmas Carol - and I cherish them. Here's one of them - the cowardly lion who wanted courage. Perfect, isn't it?
On Sunday morning G came downstairs and found the Christmas children's books I laid on the coffee table after he went to sleep the night before. He was so excited to read them and especially loved Olivia helps with Christmas.
There is a part where Olivia helps to make Christmas cookies and he looked up at me and said, "I want to make cookies!" As good fortune would have it I had made a big batch of sugar cookie dough the night before for my Cookies and Cocktails party later that day and so everything was ready for him to help roll and cut the cookies.
After we baked them he told me that it was time to put out chocolate milk and cookies because Santa Claus would be coming very soon. As I prepared the snack G hid under a side table. After I left the cookies and milk by the fireplace I heard some scurrying and then captured our little Santa on film:
He was, of course, so delighted to eat the fruit of his labor and proudly told his grammy later that day, "I made them myself!" I think I'm enjoying myself and then I get to see his delight and I'm just blown away by the fact that another layer of happiness is added to my joy.
Later that same day I had the Cookies and Cocktails party with my mom and another dear friend. This is something new I thought I'd like to do this year and something I'll look forward to doing again, but I will poll earlier for other dates that will work for more of my friends. Still - splitting a large pitcher of Winter White Sangria between just 3 people (when its intended for 8) is definitely a tradition worth repeating.
I used to LOVE to watch Christmas movies every year - everything from A Charlie Brown Christmas to It's a Wonderful Life - but it has been almost a decade since I last watched many of them. So this year I made a plan to watch at least one every weekend. Two weeks ago I watched Christmas in Connecticut with my mom. Neither one of us had ever seen it and it was very sweet. Last weekend I watched Miracle on 34th Street - another one I had never seen - and it is so wonderful. I can't believe I'd never seen it and am so glad I finally did - it will definitely be at the top of the queue next year! I'm saving my absolute favorites for the week to come and will have to watch one every couple of days to keep up: The Bishop's Wife, A Christmas Carol (the George C. Scott and Muppet Show versions), and I'll save the best for last: It's a Wonderful Life.
I created a playlist of over 100 Christmas songs and have them playing on a continuous shuffle all day long. The shuffle is random but I am quite certain that Winnona's O Come, O Come Emmanuel plays more than any other song and I am quite certain it is my favorite. I find that the chorus of "Rejoice! Rejoice!" is in my mind all the time. And that is a lovely thing. I have decided "rejoice" will be my word-of-the-year for 2009.
Rejoice is an amazing word. It means to "feel great joy" and "be glad" and "take delight" and "celebrate in some event" and "cause joy to". I am looking forward to discovering all of these nuances over the next year.