Tuesday, December 05, 2006

December, the month of missing

When I was a kid, we lived in a very rural part of South Africa... all of the people around us were Christian. Like here, all the ad's, media, and talk in Dec was about being festive. Keep in mind, that being in the S'rn hemisphere, South Africa was in the middle of summer during the Christmas holidays.
So, American and British TV were going on about snow, decorations, trees, presents, spicey smells, apple pie, roast dinners, and all things warm, cuddley, homey, and cozy.
We didn't have any of that.
It was sunny, hot, this was the season of the beach holiday. There were no pine trees, and being Jewish, there were no presents (exchanging gifts at Hannukah is not a universal amongst the Jews, its pretty isolated to the US materialistic capitalistic culture), family gatherings, big roast meals, or applie pies (definatly also a US phenomenon).
I felt very left out.
Another factor, I suppose, was that I don't have a big family, so there were none of those "home for the holidays" overflowing house experiences of idiosyncratic relatives and all of that were not occurrences of December. Yes, we had that WHOLE experience, complete with incredibly delicious food at the annual Seder at my Dad's cousin's... but you know, TV, movies, and the media didn't really go all out for that like they did for Christmas.
Now, my parents, being all caring, would give us a token little celebration. We would get a few presents... all in the name of "this is for your grandmother's sake"... and she would have a little tree, and we'd go over to her house and open up the presents... but for me, it wasn't the same without the big dead pine tree, the decorations, the smells, and the hordes of relatives (my mother's sister had kids when I was older, so even on the maternal side, there wasn't a lot of family running around these little gatherings).
When I went to college, there were a couple years where I spent the holidays with friends or boyfriends, and I really enjoyed those. They were also small family gatherings, but it was cold and snowy in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire. There were trees, and family ornaments, and presents.
As I get further away from having the need to experience organized religion, I still miss that feeling of home and cozy in December. Having my own home would seem like a good reason to do the whole thing.... but when you don't really practice a Christian religion, it just seems weird to do the whole thing. One year, my aunt and uncle came over from South Africa, and that seemed like the biggest reason of all to go ALL OUT. I got a tree that was as high as our ceiling. My first! I didn't want to buy ornaments, so I baked gingerbread cookies, and had friends help me string popcorn cranberry garlands. I added lights and some candycanes. It was very beautiful.
...but after all was said and done, my mom started having horrific allergy attacks, and the only thing we could figure caused them, was the tree... so out it went.
Over time, I have found a compromise. I still live in a snowless environment, although it is cold here... at night. But I can make my home have that cozy feel, and I fill my house with my friends by having at least one holiday "party", and I'm over presents, although we do them on a very small scale.
...as a result, I don't "miss" so much in December anymore.


Unknown said...

We don't do the big family exchange presents dinner thingee either. Must be a Jew thing. :)-

Anonymous said...

Did you string the Gingerbread men? That's awesome.

Defunct Lisa said...

Hey, Heidi... congrats on the engagement! I don't think I posted in your comments... the ring is BEAUTIFUL!!

I hung the gingerbread men (and gingerbread women in pants) with red ribbon.