Saturday, December 10, 2016

Family and the Holidays

Its the holiday season again which reminds me of my youth when I reviled in excitement for the whole month of December.  The Christmas tree, Nativity set, Advent wreath.  Shopping, outdoor Christmas lights, writing Santa.  And my greatest anticipation was of Christmas eve.  Usually all the relatives would pour into our family's home smiling carrying armfuls of presents.  The tree was now decorated and lit.  My mother being European, she always wanted a live tree that looked like this:

fraser-fir-christmas-tree.jpg (300×399)

It was a jolly evening of egg nog, litte quiches, mini eggrolls, my sister's specialty chocolate chip cookies, my mom's favorite of ruffles potato chips with French onion dip.  Lots of "So how have you been doing?"  Lots of "Oh you're getting bigger since the last time I saw you."  By the end of the evening we were beat, and the Catholics were off to midnight Mass, me an hour early to prepare to help serve Mass.

But like many American families, throughout the 364 other days of the year our family contacts and support were at best mediocre.  A lot of infighting, petty quarrels, and cool neglect to give support to each other, but mixed in with a few visits and good deeds.  And I was always the little peacemaker wanting the family to come together.

Decades later, our Fam-damnily, as I sometimes call it, is the same or worse. Family get-togethers are more sporadic, smaller, and shorter.  Its hard.

As I'm writing this I glance at the Nativity set.  There's the Holy Family.  Joseph, Mary, and the Baby Jesus (hidden under a mini blanket until midnight Christmas eve).  Its cold outside.  I don't expect we'll be spending any get-togethers with family these holidays, save my mother, despite our best wishes.

Every year I've hung onto the expectation of some level of family warmth during the holidays.  I suppose its an attachment I formed in my youth bursting with energy those Christmas eves, waiting for our relatives to come over for an evening.

But this year I'm going to try and do it differently.  It will be a quiet but spiritually-renewing Christmas, God-willing, doubly focused on the "real meaning" of Christmas.   This Advent feels rightly some light sorrow for me, fitting for this liturgical season, but in a couple weeks Christ will come and be our Joy!


  1. Extent and nature of obligation to family and extended family is something I've pondered for awhile now. While in my case there isn't infighting, we're spread out across the country all leading very different life styles with limited budgets, time, and frankly interest in each other due to years spent apart (save a visit once a year, or every other year perhaps). Does our Blessed Lord wish for me to try and reroute my life to be closer to my sister? Father? Aunts and uncles? They're all in different locations. Further, some of these options this would place us far away from the wife's family, whose proximity we are currently enjoying greatly.

    Difficult to discern. I pray that a prayerful decision and simply rolling with it is sufficient in His eyes.

  2. Yeah it gets hard around the holidays pondering our family situations. It can feel like standing in the cold and dark outside the manger of Christmas eve peering in at the Holy Family. At least we have them to give us some warmth.

    Jem, wishing you and yours a Blessed Advent and Merry Christmas, and peace discerning your family situation. Thanks for the comment.