Well, it is Sunday, December 19. In another week, Christmas will be over for another year. All the preparations you have made for making your holiday special will have met or exceeded your expectations. Will you be feeling a bit of a let down at this point? For the past month or two, you have been in full attack mode, ready to wrestle dust bunnies down to the floor, bake enough cookies, pies, cupcakes, fruit cakes (really?) to feed a small army. You will have made a spectacular holiday meal on the big day, decorated your home so that it would have made Nigella or Martha proud and hunted for the perfect gift for each person on your list. So, why is it that each year when December 26 rolls around, we feel somewhat let down? Is it a case of the seasonal affective disorder hitting us dead on or have we set the bar so high in terms of how our celebrations roll out, that there is not a chance that we can fulfill our expectations?
Personally, I think we set the bar too high, so high that there is not a chance in Hades that we will meet our goals. So, what I am about to propose is maybe going to sound radical. I propose that right now we take a moment to think about all our preparations. Did any of these preparations take into account even the vaguest of notions that we should also enjoy the holiday to the fullest? We are so gung ho on making Christmas or whatever holiday we personally celebrate perfect for our families and/or friends, that we neglect to take our own feelings or needs into account. While that may sound very noble, maybe for once we need to take back the holiday and ensure that we feel the spirit of the season and celebrate it as well.
Over the next few days, during all our preparations, we need to think about how we feel about our way of celebrating the season and maybe cut ourselves a little slack. We should be thinking about what it would take to make us feel as much a part of the special day as the others will feel when they sit around the dining room table, the Christmas tree or the blazing fireplace. Maybe we need to give ourselves permission to ask for some help from the other members of our family or extended family. No one person should have to feel compelled to cook a gargantuan meal rating no less than a five star review without a sous chef or two or three or more. Asking for some help is not wrong, it is getting others involved in helping make a communal meal. It is sharing the work load so that everyone has a role to play and by each family member or guest doing their share to help, they are also becoming a part of what makes the day a success. Everyone, no matter how old or young they are, can do their part to make the celebration special and they need to take ownership of the task that they choose or are delegated. The younger ones can certainly help set the table, clear up the clutter after the presents are opened or help with the table decor. This is a way of making everyone feel that they are contributing to the overall success of the day. Young adults can help supervise the younger guests, ensuring that no one sets anything on fire, that the family pet is kept out of the way of all the activity in the kitchen or whatever else requires a watchful eye. Older members of the family or guests who will be attending the meal can contribute to its success by bringing their special dish to the celebration. This makes for a diverse menu that will be memorable and leave the host and hostess from becoming overwhelmed.
Start your planning today. If you have not done so already, finalize what you envision the meal to be. Then, start enlisting help from those attending to bring with them a certain dish or something within a particular category. Auntie can bring her much loved mince meat tarts. Grandma can whip up a batch of her light as a feather dinner rolls that may or may not originate from a mix or a tin. It is what she does to these ingredients that makes them special, and that might just be that she puts a lot of love into making them because she feels good about helping with the meal. Uncle Ted might be just the person to whip up a spectacular salad. Involve a few other guests to bring the makings of what will turn out to be the best dessert buffet, all contributing their specialty item(s) for the gathering of the clan. Maybe this will lighten your load so that once you get the turkey, goose or meat of choice in the oven, that you just might get a chance to sit down and enjoy a cup of tea and a chat with a relative that you have not seen since the previous year. Imagine that, the opportunity to sit down and enjoy the day! Mind boggling is it not?
You see, despite all the flurry of preparations that take place in the upcoming days, day to day life continues. Pets still need to be fed as do any others living in the family home. However, if they are of an age where they can be safely put in charge of putting together a meal with a little supervision, let them help out by making an easy lasagna recipe or a shepherd's pie. Maybe this is a good time for you and your son, daughter or both, to spend some quality time together learning how to make some of these recipes. Making meals a family project not only makes the load a little lighter for yourself, but it also teaches the younger ones some life skills that will come in handy later on when they are out and living in their own first flat. Believe it or not, that day will come around sooner than you will ever expect. These little life lessons need not be only dealt with during the holidays, but year round. That just might free up some time for you to take on some personal pursuits of an artistic nature. You see, I always have an ulterior motive and that is to get you out of the kitchen and working on something that you have always wanted to do whether it is a paper craft, a sewing project, painting watercolours or knitting a sweater. Use the time to your benefit, maybe even signing up for an evening or afternoon course in the craft of your choice.
But, back to the holiday meal. With everyone contributing their special dish, you may just be raising the bar for future celebrations. The diversity of contributions may bring dishes with origins in other countries. That will be what makes the meal so special, each guest bringing their special dish and talking about why they chose that particular one and what role it played in their holiday celebrations in previous years. This is what gets everyone talking, sharing and enjoying the meal. The communal effort brings everyone that much closer. What more could you ask for on this special day?
I hope whatever your holiday meal traditions are, that you, your family, and friends enjoy the warmth and congeniality of the season. Take your time eating the meal, talk, share stories, make memories. That is what family dinners are supposed to do. It is not supposed to be a day you dread and find yourself up at 5 a.m. stuffing a turkey, peeling potatoes, making salads and preparing for the inevitable meltdown that you hope you can hold off until after everyone has left and you finally get around to soaking in a warm bath with the door locked so no one barges in to find you with mascara running down your cheeks. Let this holiday be one where you celebrate with everyone else and the smile on your face is a genuine one, not one frozen into place so that you feel you are putting on a good show. Be real, be yourself only better because this year you are not going to be stressed. And remember, stressed is just dessert spelled backwards. Seconds anyone?
Take care of yourself this week! Thursday's post will be a special Christmas story that I am in the process of writing. Yes, it is a children's story, but I think even an adult will enjoy and maybe take away a warm, fuzzy feeling after reading it. I hope so as that is my intent as I work on it each day. I cannot think of a better way to lead into a long holiday weekend.
P.S. I have been working on some paintings all through the week between forays out into the shops to pick up the ingredients for the holiday treats I am baking over the next few days. I will try to get some pictures and post them hopefully by Wednesday along with a description of what they are and how I am packaging them up for visitors to take home with them. If possible, I might even be able to provide a couple of recipes in case you want to whip up a batch for your own guests or to package up as last minute hostess gifts when you dash out to a dinner party or luncheon where you just want to take a little something for the hostess.
For now, I will post the finalized painting Winter Scene, still in the process of drying! I hope to have it up on a wall somewhere in the flat within the next day or so, along with some others that need to be displayed.