Small things make me smile in December:
The soundtrack of the Nutcracker Suite, playing as I write this. I could listen to the album at any time of year, but it would not be the same. I close my eyes and remember the hush of the National Arts Center when the red velvet curtains part and the orchestra starts up. Wide eyed children settling into their seats to watch the story of Clara unfold. Thank you, Tchaikovsky for your brilliance, and to whoever invented ballet. Such a beautiful way to move and express the emotions that are evoked by inspiring music.
Snowbursts. Occasionally during the right atmospheric conditions in December, snowflakes clump together as they fall from the sky, carpeting every surface with feather light, glistening megaflakes. These conditions are not so great for driving, but walking outside during that kind of snowfall is magical. Like being inside a snowglobe.
Blooming houseplants. On stormy days I feel restless indoors. With the garden having been long put to bed, I derive simple pleasure from the flowering Christmas cactus and elegant orchids given to me by people I care about. The lush poinsettia sitting proudly on the sideboard is a more transitory visitor, an exotic December novelty.
Evergreen trees. Now that the deciduous trees have finished their fall display, it is the fir trees’ time to shine. Nothing compares to being in the forest after a snowfall and inhaling deeply. We bring some of the woods indoors with fresh pine boughs and the proud spruce tree twinkling with lights that mirror the moon and stars outside. The house sealed up stale and close for winter smells more alive.
Christmas angels. The human ones, who are out there doing good deeds at this time of year. And the thrill of reconnecting with the ornamental ones, that have been tucked away carefully all year wrapped in tissue paper in a special box. My Mum’s name was Angeline (Angie). Over the years I have collected angel decorations that remind me of her kindness and her love of Christmas. These angels comfort me, and connect me to her memory. Setting up the manger scene reminds me of going to Mass with her at Christmas time, and of how the simple story of the Nativity deeply moved me as a child.
Anglo-Saxon traditions. My lineage is Scottish/Irish/English. It would be sweet some day to spend a Christmas season in the UK. Edinburgh would be particularly magical at this time of year. In the meantime, it feels grounding to mindfully incorporate some of the traditions of my ancestors. Mistletoe hung in the entranceway. Wreath on the door. A wee dram by the fire on Christmas Eve. Auld Ang Syne and Hogamany on the 31st. The Victorians sure did up the holidays in a big way.
T’was the Night Before Christmas. I wholehearted plunged into that story/poem as a child, and still experience the magic and wonder of Christmas Eve. It reminds me of my children’s Santa, their kind grandfather who was a lover of songs and stories and of Christmastime.
Dickens Village. Setting up the Christmas village and the tiny human figures carolling and playing in the snow reminds me of more than my Anglo-Saxon heritage. They call to mind memories of my brother-in-law who loved Christmas and poured heart and soul into making holidays special. George was an integral part of my Christmas from when I was just four years old, as was his father, who was the Santa of my childhood.
Learning about other traditions. December is a nice time to connect with people around other cultural and religious celebrations that happen at this time of year, such as Hannukah, Kwanza and Orthodox Christmas. The solstice has become a particularly sacred time for me. A day of reflection and peaceful connection to the night sky and something bigger than myself amidst the hustle and bustle of holiday preparations and get-togethers.
Nice meals. I no longer pull out all the fancy fixings that my grandparents feted the holidays with. Turkey and stuffing, fruitcake and rum soaked pudding all feel like too much for one day. Instead, we spread the holiday out over the twelve days of Christmas and make special communal, not always traditional meals that we might not have time to put together during the rest of the year.
Gingerbread. Normally, I feel lukewarm about baking. All that messy flour and precision measuring and rolling. I would rather cook with abandon. But I have to say there is something comforting about creating and decorating little spicy gingerbread people. It feels quite satisfying to dip them into a steamy cup of tea and bite off their heads.
Chocolate and tangerines. In my parents’ youth, wartime rations made the appearance of these treats at Christmas time especially dear. Now, we can eat them at any time of year, but they seem particularly decadent iand delicious during Advent. Making chocolate truffles has become a holiday ritual.
Quality time with family & friends. This is my favourite thing about December, rendered all the more precious with the separations of the pandemic. The anticipation of seeing people I love over the holidays makes my heart smile.
There are many words to describe the emotions associated with this time of year, including nostalgia, longing, joy, fun, wistfulness, heartache, love, and connectedness. The feeling state that best captures December for me is that of Wonder, in all its forms.
I wish you and yours a wonder-full holiday season !