Today is New Year’s Day, the eighth day of Christmas. On my walk around the neighborhood, I saw bare and bedraggled Christmas trees laying in the gutters and wanted to weep. As most people know, I am big on celebrating all twelve days of Christmas, culminating with an Epiphany party on January 6th. I know I am way out of step with our culture but I don’t care! I remain steadfast in my ways and am cheerfully keeping the yuletide going strong at my house.
I have had so many wonderful celebrations and illuminated moments this Christmas season! Besides seeing “The Nutcracker,” “A Christmas Carol,” and two Christmas concerts, I had fabulous family celebrations, Christmas teas with friends, adventures looking at lights, and a small faith group gathering where we prayed the O Antiphons together. All were amazing gifts to warm my soul!
Someone asked me to name the best part of Christmas so far and that was easy. For me, the very best part of Christmas is gift-giving which I believe is one of the most pleasurable activities of life. Confession: I am one of those annoying people who actually loves to seek, find, wrap, and give presents for every occasion. I especially like small, handmade gifts and spend quite a few hours dreaming up something I can make and give. This used to be a necessity when I did not have the funds to properly shower people with presents. Now this activity is a novelty since everyone immediately buys everything they could possibly need or want at Costco.
Handmade gifts represent an investment of time and thought. They speak heart-to-heart and seem to connect with a simpler way of life many long for these filled-with-expensive-technology days. This year, I made aprons for all my daughters and sons-in-law, and bracelets made out of antique buttons for my friends. I prayed over every stitch, thinking of each person as a blessed gift bestowed freely by y unconditional love. In the end, my fingers and eyes were sore but my spirit was uplifted by not only the smiles and expressions of appreciation I received but also by the joy of creativity. Such is the reciprocal nature of handmade gift-giving!
At this point in my life, I do not need a thing for Christmas or my birthday. Yet, I am a big proponent of gift-giving and receiving. Ultimately, we all need to become less self-absorbed and more altruistic. Becoming more creative about what that means is key but I try to make it easy for my friends and family.”Spend quality time with me,” I tell them, like a picnic at the beach, concert/theater tickets, long walks, or short day trips. Time equals timeless memories no amount of money can buy.
Right before Christmas, my friend Mary and I went to the Mission in San Juan Capistrano for their annual festival of lights. As we strolled around in that familiar holy place, amidst the ruins, I was transported by what I can only describe as a heavenly river of healing grace streaming from so much history, including our long, loving friendship. Tears, the holy water of daily life, ran down my face as I thanked God for gifting me beyond words with the knowledge of the true meaning of the Incarnation. A split second later, Mary and I were laughing like hyenas over something ridiculous–for which I was equally grateful.
May the new year bring many little gifts with big meanings to your lives!