I love holidays. I always have. I celebrate the real holidays and the fake ones. I just bought a case of chunky peanut butter to celebrate National Peanut Butter Lovers Month in November. There can’t be enough holidays for me.
I used to start months ahead and work long hours each day to make each family holiday – birthdays, Thanksgiving and Christmas – absolutely perfect. I started buying magazines in summer, tested ideas and made plans. The Thanksgiving table had to be perfectly set with handmade pinecone turkey favors.
One Christmas, we made napkin rings from toilet paper rolls (empty) topped with felt poinsettias. I don’t remember why we did that, but I do know that was the last toilet paper roll craft I ever care to make. Another year, I sprayed everything including the front of the refrigerator with gold spray paint. The children made cereal mosaics that I sprayed gold. Note: It doesn’t work to spray Cheerios gold. They collapse. Then the kids cry and you’ll sort of collapse.
I often worked late into the night right up to Christmas Eve to have everything ready down to the perfect dusting of talcum powder Santa Claus footprints by the fireplace.
My favorite time came the night before Christmas when we dressed up and had our traditional procession up the stairs and the youngest child placed the Christ Child in the manger. (“Mom always liked you best,” one of the siblings observed to her.) It seemed perfect and I thought it always would be that way.
Each family member carried a character from our nativity set to be put in place while Daddy played the organ. There always was a big fight over who had to carry the donkey. One year, the discussion culminated in a battle. Quite a bit of furniture was broken and we never used the donkey again. Still, I thought we always would have these celebrations.
The next summer, my husband died. There could never be the same holiday again. You have to create a holiday that fits who you are now, and the easiest way, I think, is to have a lot of little celebrations instead of one big one.
Some people just seem to know how to make any ordinary day a holiday. Last Sunday at Mass, Father Paul Kanai taught us to sing “Thank You Jesus” in Swahili. Learn A Song in Swahili Day would be an ideal pre-Thanksgiving holiday.
I’ve written before about Lenore Clem, the Heart Lady of Fox Island. She’s been turning out fat stuffed “feely” hearts 20 years after she started creating them for Mary Bridge Hospital in Tacoma. By now, she’s sent more than 100,000 hearts around the world to hospitals and special programs from Zambia to Australia. Lenore is 93. She works on her hearts every day, lamenting that it now takes her 15 minutes to make a heart that will comfort a newborn, or a child with cancer somewhere in the world. She sits in her big chair and does what she can do, and that’s a lot. How about a Do As Much As You Can Day?
Years ago at Christmas, I was bedridden in the hospital at Fort Campbell, Ky., with a perilously troubled pregnancy. A stranger whose husband served with mine took me home with her and cared for me till my husband returned. When I tried to thank her she said, “You can’t do anything for me. You’ll do it for somebody else.” Do It For Somebody Else Day would be a fine holiday.
Holidays change. We didn’t have turkey most Thanksgivings when I was a kid. From about 1943 till several years after World War II, there was a turkey shortage and you couldn’t get that big bird for your holiday feast, though we tried. “There’s turkey at Safeway,” someone would call on the party line, and everyone lined up there, usually unsuccessfully. But mostly, dinner had to be something else. One year, it was Spam. And then one year, there was plenty of turkey and the holiday changed again. Holidays change all the time. We have to change, too.