I’m a big fan of Yuletide/Decemberween/Wintermas/whatever you want to call it. It’s a great holiday: getting together with family, exchanging gifts and tucking in to a three-course meal that leaves everyone mildly incapacitated. My family has, as all families have, its own special traditions that I look forward to every year: that everyone has to help out with the meal in some way, that presents are only given after the main course and before dessert to allow some modicum of digestion to take place, the phoning of family living overseas to wish them personally, and the requirement that the youngest child who can read gives out all the gifts one at a time to the waiting family, sitting crowded around the tree. That some religious people celebrate the birth of their prophet on that day is a coincidence that is generally not taken into account, for which I am enormously grateful.
Yuletide for me starts weeks in advance, with the all-important tasks of discussing and planning the menu, and with the purchasing of gifts. The careful selection of a good gift is by far the most challenging and satisfying aspect of my Yuletide. They say that it is better to give than to receive, and never is that more true than when one receives a truly disappointing gift. There is always the distant relative or elderly aunt who invariably gives you either something inpersonal like socks, or something truly offensive, like a bible. Case in point this year was a 2008 astrology calendar from a female relative of my significant other, complete with daily predictions for the year ahead. This would be from the same person who presented me last year with a book on Feng Shui and another on Dream Interpretation. Gifts like these make you wonder if the person is shopping for you, or for themselves.
What do you do in these scenarios? Well, in the spirit of the season, you smile and thank them graciously, as if you had just received something wonderful, thoughtful and exciting, that you cannot wait to dig into. This can be difficult, and I was very thankful this year that the gift was actually not presented in person, nor did I have to thank the giver in person, so I was spared that trial of forced good nature. On the down side, it only means that next year I will receive something similar, probably a guide to homeopathic remedies or something by Deepak Chopra.
Oh well, another yuletide came and went in exactly the way I expected it – chaos, tradition, good cheer, great food, and mostly good presents. Here’s looking forward to next year.