Monday, December 20, 2010

Making Christmas Traditions

Christmas is all about traditions for me. I have no problem with tweaking traditions and trying new ways of realizing traditions, but I really need to go through the familiar motions in order to feel like I'm experiencing the season correctly. There's something about tracing my own footsteps through the visions of Christmases Past that makes the season feel special. I firmly feel that anticipation may be the best part! Living in a different state from my family meant that the weeks before Christmas felt melancholy without the Christmas traditions I relished as a child, though I cherished the week I did spend at home with my parents even more.

Being a member of the "real world" and living in a different state from my parents for the first time meant that I couldn't participate in all of the traditions I cherish from my childhood. For example, I didn't get to help my parents pick out a tree, and I didn't help put Christmas lights on the house. I didn't get to shop with my mom and dad for presents for each other, and my family didn't get to make Christmas cookies together. There simply wasn't enough time. This transition had been brewing in my college years, with more and more traditions carved off my Christmas turkey with each successive year. It's what happens when you get older. First Santa goes, and slowly all the other trappings.

Never fear! We had a great Christmas despite the brevity of my family's time spent together. I enjoyed every day of my week at home, conscious all the while that most people who work reception jobs don't get this much time off around the holidays. My parents' Christmas tree was lovely and well-stocked with presents:

I love giving my parents presents, and I can tell that they love to give me presents. I've taken a special ownership over the stuffing of stockings, and I like to think that I do it very well. My parents both loved their presents and stocking stuffers, making Christmas morning a success. Later that day we took an entire meal to my grandparents house for Christmas dinner: roast, Gruyere potatoes, asparagus, green salad, rolls, and buttermilk pie, oh my! The roast in particular was delicious and afforded excellent sandwiches later.

After Christmas there was a birthday dinner for my grandmother, an outing to a garden statuary store with the Eckels, my parents took Malcolm and me to the Nasher sculpture garden for a Calder exhibit (swoon!), and even a day of classic movies and Chinese food. The holiday was a perfect blend of action-packed and restful hours. The only thing I regret is not having time to see my few friends who still come back to Arlington. Essentially, it was an excellent Christmas; I think the brevity of time with my family made it all the more special.

So while we pulled together and made an excellent holiday week, the truth of the matter is, I'm not always going to get to spend a week in Texas for Christmas, and even if I am, there's still the month before which should be full of decorating, cookie baking, and present acquiring time that I am going to have learn to make my own now that Malcolm and I are our own little family.

This year, with the exception of shopping for presents, Malcolm and I didn't do these things with gusto if at all. It just felt a little silly without family, as though trying would somehow make our isolation feel more pronounced. I imagine that one day, many years down the line, when we have our own children this will be different, but for now, we settled on a few simple observances of the Christmas season.

For example, the last meal Malcolm and I had together in L.A. this semester (sorry, I still measure time by an academic calendar) was the exact same meal we had the morning after I first arrived in L.A.: Literati Cafe's Eggs Florentine with Hashbrowns! Perhaps this wasn't strictly a holiday tradition, but the beginnings of a tradition nevertheless:

Furthermore, we our own little tree. I put curled ribbons on it, and Malcolm folded origami cranes. It was simple, handmade, and lovely, but it certainly won't fit the collection of winged ornaments my parents have been adding to- an ornament a year for 23 years! Still, it seems more practical and more environmentally friendly to have small potted trees as long as we are apartment-dwellers:

I also made a few simple, low-budget and very DIY-y attempts at Christmas decorating:

Perhaps the closest we got this year to a continuable tradition were the Christmas cards I handmade and hand-wrote this year. I like the idea of making cards every year, somehow it feels more genuine. I tried to make the messages in them as heartfelt as possible.

So while this year Malcolm and I seem to have failed to celebrate Christmas together in style (we still haven't even wrapped, given, or opened our presents to each other), I have a plan for the future! I have resolved to make stockings for Malcolm and myself next year. As previously mentioned- I love stockings, I love the tiny little bits of joy, and I love how stockings feel super-traditional in their long history. It's a tradition from my own family's holidays and from the days of yore that I look forward to claiming as my own next year. I have something like this in mind. That's all you can do, right? Try to get a little more festive every year.

How did you claim Christmas as a holiday for young adults this year?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Reflections on Blogging

One of my friends, one of the most natural, witty writers I actually personally know, finally caved to the trend and started his own blog, overcoming considerable fears that he was being unpleasantly narcissistic in writing publicly about himself. I'm still figuring out what role I want my blog to take, so I find his self-deprecating guilt about beginning a blog fascinating. For this reason I'm going to provide a few of my thoughts:

I think that if you are going to attempt to update many people about your life at once, then blogging is undeniably the preferable format. (As opposed to the mass e-mailing option some people prefer.) I consider blogging superior for three main reasons:

First, blogging allows your audience to come to you. When the author of an e-mail update selects who to send the e-mail to, he or she might exclude interested parties, or burden disinterested parties with too much information about their life. I would never e-mail someone to tell them: "Hey! sorry, I don't actually want to hear about your life!"; personal listserves are basically impossible to extract yourself from. But with a blog, you can just stop reading it, and no one is the wiser. Basically, a blog is just a diary until outside readers decide to visit it. It's more like an invitation, without social obligations.

Second, blog formats are more conscientious of reader's/friend's time. Monthly e-mailing tends to take the form of long, this-is-everything-I've-done-in-the-last-month! messages rather than pointed, theme-specific posts spread out over the days or weeks (like blog posts). I find the latter to be the obviously less daunting option. Maybe I'm showing my ADD generation affiliation, but reader-attention-span is a legitimate consideration for online communications, and in this respect blogging is clearly superior.

Third, pictures! The e-mail format does not allow for easy inclusion of pictures or illustrations, while the blog format does. Obvi!

Next, the friend in question, (let's call him Winston), feels considerable guilt with using the pronoun "I" in his writing. For example: "It makes me feel enormously self-conscious; it’s like a giant pimple on the face of one’s writing." While this viewpoint is extraordinarily, charmingly self-deprecating, I would posit that as long as the author of any personal blog attempts (and this is crucial) to draw conclusions from their personal experiences that would be relevant to a wider audience, and remains humble as to the impact of their opinions, then there is no harm done. After all, didn't the wise men say: "write what you know"?

Finally, my good friend "Winston" states that one of the underlying themes of his blog is to encourage and foster his friendships. This is where my musings run aground. I, too, stated this as one of my objectives when I started my blog, but it hasn't been clear to me whether I've made anyone feel connected to me and vice versa through my blog. I don't feel like I'm sparking two-way conversations with friends on this end.

But then, I can think of two relationships in particular that have been fostered through my ability to read their blogs. Both blogs are incredibly important to me because of the connection they created. I also know that I feel fostered and inspired by the various crafting blogs I follow. So I'm not giving up on the format just yet.