About 20 years ago, I converted to Judaism as a function of my marriage. Since Judaism is a matriarchal religion (could have fooled me) the goal was for me to be able to mysteriously birth Jewish babes from my loins. At the time, it was an adventure into learning the nuances and language of this ancient culture steeped in rituals and laws. Although my babes had white blond hair, one of them Scottish-bald with nothing but new-born chick fuzz for over a year, I did not realize until years later what a gift choosing to be Jewish would be.
I hate shopping. I may spend a total of about an hour in a mall annually out of necessity and that is almost too long. I’ve always innately supported local crafts-persons, or given a gift card for an experiential delight like an airplane ride with a friend’s son logging air-hours or a jaunt in a hot air balloon, or I’ve made my own gifts out of love only if I feel compelled to give something from my heart to another. One year, I asked my beautiful organic farmer to make up a basket of her East Indian delicacies and ship them to my best friend in New Brunswick. I like this kind of gift best of all.
I despise clutter and useless knick-knacks and so I have always avoided giving anything fundamentally useless to someone else. The only thing I like doing with my extended family is the crazy $10 exchange on Christmas Eve where my claim to fame is to always get the best number in the draw so I can choose the biggest, heaviest, juiciest gift. I always vie to find my Nan’s homemade goodies or preserves. One year I got a lemon zester from my cousin Todd! One year my Uncle got a broken wooden toilet seat that he cherished for his cottage outhouse. These gifts become family lore and get all the funnier depending on how many glasses of wine you’ve had.
Two days later on boxing day we eat a big turkey with all the traditional fixings. I make Apple Crisp to bring, my Grandmother’s recipe. I will generally make an organic turkey dinner for the left-overs to carry through the week. Perhaps I might even invite a friend or two over. I love pot lucks as it rescues us from becoming kitchen slaves. My Aunt used to cook for days after wrapping presents until the wee hours the night before and then exhaustively work shifts nursing that same week. I vowed never to become anything remotely like her. I always just wanted to pluck her from the self-made madness she’d cultivated for herself and hold her until she let go of the tears that
were obviously pent up. Even her kids hated that she burnt herself out like toast over the holidays for them.
I actually don’t have a lot of time for Christmas in its traditional sense. While I love my immediate family, it can take about 10 minutes to exchange a gift card or cash with my teenagers. They used to draw me pictures or make me socks or a hand-made Waldorf Fairy Princess and these gifts I still cherish. I don’t need or want for anything and I totally love the sparse Festival that is wholly complete with a Chanukah Menorah and the lighting of a candle over eight nights and my sacred oasis completely bereft of cheesy decorations. Funny as I used to avoid Christmas by saying I was Jewish, picking and choosing only what brought me the most pleasure. Even funnier one year when my son or daughter pointed to the decorated homes in a neighbourhood we were passing by car identifying each house as, “Christmas, Christmas, Jewish, Christmas, Christmas, Christmas, Jewish!” They were “Jewish” if they had no lights or obvious decorations.
I have adopted this state of mind, really and will celebrate only where the venue seems most spiritually resonant and fulfilling for the higher purposes of my existence. I go where the pleasure is! Sometimes it is a drumming circle or a solstice celebration. Some years I’ve escaped to my abode with nothing but movies and avoided any get-togethers altogether. It just depends on where I’m at. I give myself the gift of freedom to decide in the moment. The older
I get, the more deliciously selfish I become. As a Physician, sometimes on Skype in the middle of the night with a birthing Mother or up with a new mom administering remedies for a child with a high fever, Christmas is a time of complete quiet and contemplation for me.
I always start out with the end in mind. How do I want to feel when the holidays are over? My usual response is ‘rested’, and more connected to myself and my beloved as the kids are up in Ottawa with their Dad. My self-fulfilled twelve days of Christmas generally looks like this:
- Long snowshoe walks in the bush or Nordic walking on trails by the ocean taking photographs.
- Writing poetry or prose purely for pleasure.
- Drawing and painting for hours.
- Staying in my pyjamas until nightfall and then a long bath with essential oils.
- Reading a Highlander romance novel by Diana Gabaldon with a cat on my lap
- *Studying a particular subject in my research. This year it is Slow Sex; The Art and Craft of the Female Orgasm. Someone’s got to do it!
- Watching really delicious foreign films in my PJs by the fire with Jeff.
- Heading to Halifax for the weekend and getting all dressed up to eat at a sumptuous restaurant.
- Having lunch with a girlfriend at a sexy little bistro or tea room.
- Doing the whole book of Alexander Lowen’s Bioenergetic exercises.
- Knowing that the next day is just another call to spontaneity.
How do you spend your twelve days?
Merry Christmas and a Happy Chanukah!