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:
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!