Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Few Seasonal Thoughts

1. My annual cookie exchange is coming up on Saturday. My best friend and I have been holding these for six years now, since we were juniors in college. We were so excited for the first one, because it was the first year we were both living in apartments with real kitchens and ovens! We created this hugely elaborate list of "rules" for the party, which I'm pretty sure no one even read, let alone obeyed. It was full of admonishments warning people that they'd better not "lame out" and decide not to come (even if they had finals the next day), and reminding everyone to wear appropriate fancy Christmas attire, and not wait until the day of the party to bake their cookies in case something went wrong and they had to start over. I even signed off the invitation with "Please come! It will be tons of fun and very classy!" - which is basically the same thing as saying "we're totally desperate." And it was particularly difficult convincing our male friends that there was a good reason they should brave the daunting task of baking cookies. Amazingly, people did show up to that first party, and it was a good time. Thus, we have continued the tradition every year since.

Instead of the normal (and in my opinion, insane) way of cookie-exchanging, where each guest brings a full dozen cookies to exchange with each person, we just ask people to make a double batch of their chosen recipe, so there are enough to share. And I force everyone to take home leftovers.

This year, I'm just making some easy drop cookies. They're basically oatmeal raisin cookies with mini m&ms in them. Based on my limited time (very fussy 3-month old baby!), and limited budget, I decided to stick with something pretty simple.

2. I've been thinking more this year about the season of Advent, and how it should properly be observed. Before coming to college, I thought of Advent mostly as a time of joyful expectation for the coming of Christ. I saw no problem with putting up Christmas decorations, listening to Christmas music, attending Christmas parties before December 25th. I had heard stories from my dad about how it was when he was a kid. My grandparents would buy the tree before Christmas, but then seal it off from view in a room by hanging sheets at the door. They hung a sign saying "elves at work" and prohibited the kids from going inside. When everyone went downstairs on Christmas morning, the sheets were down, and the tree was unveiled in its decorated glory. I thought this was just a quaint family tradition, and didn't connect it with the fact that Advent might not be the time for the full-on Christmas splendor.

It wasn't until I started college and got involved in the Newman Center there that I even encountered the idea that Advent was a penitential season in many ways. Now it's not uncommon for me to hear about people holding off on the lights, ornaments, and carols until it's actually the day of Christ's birth. And I have to say, I have respect for people who do that. And yet...I still break out my stuff some weeks before. I'm still trying to figure out what's the right way for me and my family to honor this season.

3. Also on my mind recently is how I should handle Christmas gifts this year for a little baby. Obviously, he's much too young to have a clue what's going on or even realize that he's been given anything at all. But I can't be that mom who gets NOTHING for her son for Christmas. He already has more than enough toys as it is, from the baby shower, hospital visitors, etc.. Also, my mother is the hugest over-gifter I know, and I'm sure she'll be buying him TONS. So what to get him? I found a set of wooden blocks in a little pull-wagon. I had the same thing when I was a kid. And I like that they're made out of wood. It's so hard to find toys that are anything but plastic these days. Or that require batteries! Geez. It was only $5 - haha. I'm content giving my kid just one gift this year. And at least it's something that he'll appreciate when he's a little bigger. A friend of mine was telling me that for her son's first Christmas, they just wrapped up a huge box of diapers, and filled his stockings with nursing pads!

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