Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Holidays versus A Vacation

“I hope your Christmas plans and preps are proceeding apace,” I wrote to a friend recently, “and you can relax and enjoy the ‘holidays’ as if they really are a holiday.”

As you can tell from my snarky ‘holidays,’ I’m a little jaded about this festive time of year. The potential for exhaustion has me opting out of many of the normal – expected, in fact – activities.

I go to few parties and host even fewer. I bake just enough for the potlucks I do attend. I buy presents for one pre-teen, two teenagers, and an adult child…and only if I have a brilliant idea (I had two this year!) do I purchase gifts for any other grown-ups.

This is not because I’m cheap (although I am pretty frugal) or lazy (well…). It’s because all of the planning, shopping, cooking, decorating, wrapping, delivering, baking, shopping, cleaning and shopping pile on top of everyday life which for me, as for most of us, is quite full enough, thank you.

We still have to organize family schedules, put in the hours at the day job, pack lunches, cook dinners and launder clothes…and on top of all that we’re supposed to iron tablecloths, polish candlesticks, and make room in the freezer for twenty-two pounds of plucked turkey?

And for what? I’m not a capital-C Christian, so for me it’s not about the man himself, although I’m on board with a lot of his principles. But because this started out as a holy celebration, I’m miffed that it’s morphed into a shopping extravaganza. In fact, I bet if I were crazy enough to go to my local mall right now, I could probably find a 14-karat gold-plated statue of a calf…. But I digress.

To me, this festive season has lost its charm because it’s no longer a holiday in either the original sense or its more modern meaning of vaca…

Hold on a sec. Perhaps I’ve been looking at this the wrong way around.

A vacation is an emptying of normal life, leisure.

A holiday, on the other hand, is a celebration.

Cards and letters from friends far away; family around the dinner table, eating food planned, purchased and prepared with love; reminiscing about some awful camping trip or teasing Dad about his mis-spent youth; laughing.

I stand corrected; that sounds sacred enough for me, after all.

I wish you all a holiday season filled with whatever makes you happy.


  1. This is my absolute favorite holiday/festival/celebration of the year, and I find it more invigorating than exhausting.

    I love the food, having the family together, the decorations, the lights...

    I even enjoy the shopping, but I'm a bit of an unconvential shopper. Most of my gifts come from craft fairs, farmers' markets, thrift stores, online secondhand stores, and of course bookstores.

    Like anything else, everyone should only do the things they enjoy about the holidays. Be happy!

  2. Its no coincidence christmas follows the shortest day of the year. I think you are actually right on the nose with christmas. what is lost in the 'spirit' of frenzied christmas shopping, baking, and dizzying chaos is the coming together of family and friends in this time of darkness. As we await the return of the light we gather together with our community. Hopefully, we make it through without too much blame on others for not creating a strong enough light. The light does return. It comes without boxes and bows. Even the grinch couldnt stop it from coming...because Perhaps christmas could mean something more. Faw who dor ay. Welcome christmas...or hummm a few bars of silent night.
    I adore you.

  3. I'm looking forward to the turning of the year, when the days start to get longer again, and I plan to celebrate by cooking a big vat of something savoury while I listen to Dylan Thomas recite his A Child's Christmas in Wales. That'll make me happy, Lee!

    Then, on the weekend, I'll share the food with my family and toast the coming of the light – and maybe as a special treat I'll hum a few bars from Whoville, Tracey :) Thanks for the reminder!

  4. BRAVO! Love your bloggable thought.....was curious to see what would come of it.....Lisa

  5. I think Christmas is a good time to slow down and remember what's really important - even if in slowing down, we end up doing more cooking, shopping and silver polishing than usual. We live in a 'me first' world; we don't put others first nearly enough and even though the true meaning of Christmas might be skewed into something more commercial than I'd like, I still think it's lovely to aknowledge and give to others at this time of year. Whether that giving is of time, food, love, or things, the giving - the unsaid 'I care about you; you matter' - is what's important. I think we could to with more Christmas spirit all year 'round. Emphasis on spirit, not shopping!
    Have a restful, peaceful, joyous holiday, Rachel.

  6. I completely agree with you about spirit >>shopping, Laura!

    At this time of year, even strangers on the street are more likely to say hello and smile, and that's wonderful. We could all use more of that civility and connection all year.