Christmas has always been more of a cultural than religious celebration for me. And if more Americans would dig their heads out of the sand about the real origins of many a Christmas custom and tradition they'd realize that most of us truly celebrate it culturally and that takes nothing away from him as your personal savior. When was the last time someone gave you frankincense or myrrh (gummy resins) for a gift - how pissed off would you be with those? Since the birth of my daughter nearly 15 years ago, Christmas has always been a big deal at my parents' home. Even when my ex and I were trying to hold fast to another religious tradition, Christmas time was a big deal. Our daughter became the sole property of her Grandparents on that day. She is their only grandchild and I was not about to deny them that joy. We'd drop her off in the morning so they could dote and spoil her to their hearts content and boy did they ever. My Dad made it a point to start shopping for costumes for dress up a few days after Halloween - he always came up with a treasure trove. They never failed to go way overboard where their "Boobie" and gifts were concerned. There were usually so many gifts, we had to leave half of them at their house.
This year despite being unemployed, I spent more than I probably should have on both gifts and the meal. My intent was neither shallow nor thoughtless but to remind us that even without my Dad we are still a family albeit a tiny one missing an anchor but a loving, living circle nonetheless. We should and will celebrate that. After my ex and I went our separate ways both religiously and maritally, I began to revel in the holiday traditions of my childhood, my family, my country again. I don't normally put up a tree, one because I love live trees but every year chicken out of cutting down a living tree for a meager week or two. (It takes at least 7 years for a tree to grow to minimum buying potential). Secondly, because my daughter and I normally spent the entire week from Christmas Eve to New Years day at their home and they put up a tree just for her it was never necessary really. Well this past January, in my infinite wisdom (ha!) I scored a dirt cheap lighted artificial tree and some beautiful Hallmark keepsake African-American holiday ornaments. So yes, for the first time in a longtime we have our own tree in our home and Christmas will be celebrated here in this little corner of South Central PA. On Christmas Eve, we watched our favorite Vicar of Dibley Christmas episodes (Dawn French rocks) - they emphatically refused to watch Ralphie in The Christmas Story one more time, my all-time favorite. Later we were guests at the sweetest church service replete with quips straight out of "Kids Say the Darndest Things". Later in the morning, though not late enough for at least 1 of us, we took turns opening gifts one by one so the anticipation and excitement last longer. A tradition we only started about 4 years ago. It was even more suspenseful because this year I forgot to tag gifts with recipient names.
And true to form, I cooked a very un-traditional (for us) meal of creamy cauliflower soup as a starter, followed by pernil (a Puerto Rican spiced pork roast), coffee/chili/sugar rubbed beef brisket, crash potatoes, spanakopita (my signature dish at all family gatherings), fresh baked rolls, sweet potato pie with a gingersnap crust and a sweet Riesling. Way too much food for sure but I've invited some friends in the truly generous spirit of my Dad.
This is the first Christmas without my Dad, exactly 4 months since he left us. It's not true that old saying "out of sight, out of mind"because my Dad's absence is blaringly obvious to us. And through out the day we will eulogize him again and again through those ever so sweet and now seemingly distant memories of him. My Mom didn't break down when she got the Angel bead, in my Dad's honor, for her Pandora bracelet. And the fact that as I add this final revision we are all still playing Words with Friends together on the various new electronic devices proves that I done good in honoring our Angel as Santa's helper this year.
Love and Miss you DAD,
your Loving Daughter - the VBG.