Finding the seasonal spirit

Sometimes the Christmas spirit is found in music, decorations or the excitement of shopping for gifts. Sometimes we find it with a smell, a taste, a sound or a few minutes spent making a gift or writing a letter.
Recently a friend who is not in the best of health said she woke up early and spent her entire day measuring, mixing and baking a variety of quick breads, banana, zucchini and cranberry. She knew the bread would make great gifts during the holidays, but considering her recent illness she did not understand her obsessive baking spree.

Only after the bread was wrapped and in the freezer did she realize that first and foremost making the bread had been for herself. The smell of fresh baked, quick breads saturated her home with the warm, homey smells of her childhood Christmas. Even though it was still early in December she said, “I feel like I have had Christmas. Nothing else matters, I have had my Christmas.”

For years I didn’t feel like I had had Christmas unless I had a new book to read on Christmas day. One year the thought struck me: The book does not have to be new, just one I’ve never read. That year my Christmas preparations included a stop at Barton Library to check out a book to ensure I had Christmas: a day with long hours submerged in the luxury of uninterrupted reading while the lights on the Christmas tree twinkled.
It took me a while to conceive that part of my husband’s holiday fun is cracking a basket of nuts, a few at a time and sharing perfectly shelled nuts with loved ones. Once I understood that Christmas for him was a cracking and shelling nuts, I quit arguing that it was a cheaper, easier and neater to simply buy them already shelled.

It begins to feel a lot like Christmas the day I receive my first Christmas card or a friend’s annual family update. I celebrate each holiday by preparing and sending out one of those, “holiday letters with a family update” along with Christmas cards and recent pictures of the family. I actually like receiving the family updates: I have an entire picture album filled with annual school pictures of nieces, nephews and friends.

As a child in upstate New York, December meant checking out each day’s delivery of Christmas cards. My mother taped the cards along the stairway banister creating a wall of red and green interspersed with gold and silver. Every year she sent cards to old friends and new, as well as aunts, uncles and cousins.
Then we moved to Utah and had to pinch pennies just as the price of stamps increased 2-cents. Mom typed and duplicated a Christmas letter to send to far-away friends and relatives, noted who sent us cards and began trimming her mailing list.

The cost of postage is even higher now, but my Christmas holidays are not complete without writing and sending a holiday greeting. Sometimes it is New Year’s Eve before I do a simple family update to send to my far-flung family. It doesn’t matter, the letters and cards are a reminder of Christmases past and a prayer for many more future Christmases.