It's a very unChristmas this year. Not because I don't feel celebratory (I do!) or because I don't love Christmas (I really do) but because everything is nonsense-backwards this year.

Today, for example. It's Christmas Eve today. As kids, we would have arrived at my grandparents' on the dot of 4pm, ready for julebukking (contrary to the linked definition, that just meant traveling among relatives house and devouring all available food like a swarm of locusts), present opening, eating of endless cheeses, Christmas punch, sometimes eggnog, always meatballs. Sometimes dinner I guess, but that's less clear. And carols, holding hands, singing around the tree.

Just like in Whoville!

Yet on this Christmas Eve, I am doing none of those things. Instead, I'm watching 5th Element and eating Qdoba nachos.

My kid, my husband, my stepdaughter, and my parents are all hundreds of miles away, and all in different directions. My sister is up the road, but her family celebrates Hanukkah now. When I left her house earlier this afternoon we sort of looked at each other awkwardly and said "Uh, Merry Christmas?" because we don't know what to make of this day, so naked for both of us without its usual holiday glitter. For her, because she has married into new faith. For me, because I have married into a blended family, and our Christmas isn't for another week.

Holidays are one of the roughest parts of blended families, letting go of the traditions you had as a child, plus those you envisioned for your own family as an adult. I've written about this before, our crazy paper Christmas tree that simultaneously symbolizes everything I love and everything that is heartbreaking about living in a blended family.

Only, that post was a lie.

In reality, the kids cheerfully taped paper ornaments to that stupid paper tree while Kermit the Frog sang "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and then I started crying and had to leave the room. Dan followed to talk me off the ledge, in the incredible way only he can do. And I cried that the paper tree was bullshit, that celebrating Christmas on December 30 is bullshit too, that this is the stupidest holiday ever because it's made up on a random day. And that we will never have a "real" Christmas, just like we will never be a "real" family.

Dan pointed out-- look, the kids are happy. They think it's Christmas, so it's Christmas. Who cares what the date is? And we are a real family, dammit. So what if we have zero examples of families like ours to look to? So what? We're our own thing. We're trailblazers.

And he was right.

I realized in that moment it was only my stubborn perception of how the holiday "should" be that was interfering with feeling celebratory. And, PS, no one gave a crap about the real-ness of the holiday except me. I pulled it together, returned to the idiot paper tree, tried to appreciate that we had created-- for the first time in our lovable disaster of a family, actually-- something new, something from scratch. A tradition that is 100 percent ours.

Then I went on to write my blog post about how the calendar day doesn't matter. And somehow, in the intervening couple years since then, it's even become true.

Look, Christmas-on-the-day is a farce anyway. Most scholars agree that historical Jesus wasn't born anywhere near December 25. Mistletoe and the Yule log come straight from my ancestors, the pagan Norsemen. And the whole gift exchange thing has its roots in the Saturnalia.

Regardless of the various appropriated traditions, Christmas is when we gather to celebrate.

Except that's backwards.

When we gather to celebrate, THAT is our Christmas.

In Alice in Wonderland, every day that isn't your birthday is your unbirthday. A day to celebrate! And our Christmas is an unChristmas, our celebratory day anywhere between December 29th and New Year's. It doesn't matter when the day is; "Christmas" is whenever we get around to celebrating it.

Instead of feeling like we're being cheated out of the holiday, our oddball paper Christmas now feels super fun and sacred somehow. Like those days you wake up really early and you just know the entire world is asleep except you, and in that grey light anything is possible.

Our Christmas is like that-- we're the only ones celebrating; it's a day that's all ours. Anything is possible.

Just like the Whos down in Whoville, we celebrate our Christmas without a (real) tree, without my childhood trappings of untangling light strings with my dad and my red and green plaid taffeta dress.

Instead, our Christmas has a paper tree with glitter-glue ornaments cut from brown Trader Joe's shopping bags. The inaugural song every year is Elvis crooning Blue Christmas; we listen to the whole album, before moving on to the Muppet Christmas album. Then Dan & I leave to buy stocking stuffers from the Michael's dollar aisle while the kids watch holiday movies (Elf, then Scrooged, usually in that order) and they wrap presents.

Crossover traditions from childhood? None.

Yet the feel of Christmas in the air, the family celebration and joy and presents and togetherness and loving one another? We've got that covered.

Even when it falls on December 30th.


After the Stretch

While contorting my body into a weird pose during a so-called "stress-relieving" yoga routine, I thought this is really the opposite of stress relief.

As if the teacher read my mind, she said: "Just to be clear, the release comes after the stretch, not during."

I am reminded of release this December, following an absolutely nuts November.

I won NaNo, something I really thought I couldn't manage this year.

I made it to 50,300 words a whopping 46 minutes before midnight on November 30. I typed so much that my finger joints actually hurt. Not just because of NaNo, but because of the other 70,547 words I wrote for Edited by a Pro in November. And this on top of the other full-time job I have. And also on top of parenting and, you know, laundry and stuff.

Yet, despite my jacked-up fingers and completely fried imagination, I came out the other end feeling-- amazing.


Getting to indulge my imagination for 50,300 words opened something up that spread into other limbs of my life. My boring articles became more creative; my days felt more fulfilled.

Sure, I was exhausted. Beyond that, though, I felt whole.

The word 'yoga' means 'yoke' in Sanskrit -- yoke as in union: the union of body and mind, or your union with a higher power.

Yoke also means burden, a thing keeping us bound, willing or no.

"We are soooo enlightened right now."

Dan is struggling right now, stuck down in Vegas while his daughter is in Reno and Miss G and I are up here. He's stressed and unhappy without his family and says this is one of his lowest points.

"No more character-building, Honey," he says to me over the phone, sounding defeated.

And I tell him, Hang in there. Just a little longer. Release comes after the stretch.

When I'm uncomfortable in a yoga pose, I remind myself to relax. When I stop resisting and remember to breathe, that's when I realize-- yeah, my body can actually do this. And when I disentangle my limbs, I feel amazing.


When life is uncomfortable, every instinct tells me to fight it tooth and nail. Untwist, realign, or flee the scene. Quit NaNo. Cut down to one job. Yet without breathing into the discomfort, without allowing yourself to learn from it, you never get to the next stage in your personal evolution.

Breathe deeply, and let it pass. Stretch deep, and wait for the release.

Source: http://kubuzetto.deviantart.com


Faking Hanukkah

Every other year of Peep's life, she's been traveling somewhere exotic around Hanukkah time and while there may have been presents, it was not a big deal. This year, though, she and her baby sister are kicking it with me over the weekend while her folks move into their new house-- and this weekend happens to be the first couple nights of Hanukkah.

"Hanukkah oh Hanukkah -- uh-- something something some-thing"

When I was a kid, Christmas was a huge deal. Candlelight, singing, gobs of people and presents piled higher than my head. (And horrible, horrible lutefisk... but that's another post.)

My grandmother was super into Christmas; my parents continued her traditions and passed them on to us. I've always loved Christmas-- oh sure, the presents... but the music, the way people are nicer, the twinkly sparlky-ness of it all. And above it all, the sense of magic.

My sister wrote more eloquently than I could about not feeling marginalized at Christmas when you're Jewish. It's heartbreaking for me to imagine, as a kid, seeing all that amazing-ness that the stores haul out for Christmas and knowing that none of it is for you.

Also, as an auntie, I consider it my god-given right to spoil my nieces like crazy at the holidays and lavish them with presents. The name of the holiday we're celebrating is secondary-- tertiary, even-- to the actual celebration and watching kids' faces light up as they open presents.

My sister was all "Oh, if you don't want to deal with it this weekend, it's fine; Hanukkah isn't a big deal" and I was all "WHAT?!" Because, no glitter? No presents? No awesome magical-ness??

As my sister often does, she looked sort of bemused at my high level of emotion. And then gave her blessing to do whatever I want this weekend.

So, Miss G and I are reading up on Hanukkah.

Elements I have going for me:
  • Peep has no real basis of celebration for the holiday yet, so almost anything I do will probably fly.
  • The dollar store had plenty of silver garland
  • I'm not religious enough for any of this to feel blasphemous
What I have going against me?

The punchline is, Hanukkah itself is a pretty minor holiday in the Jewish repertoire. The vibe I get from most online (Jewish) sites toward Hanukkah is one of surly reluctance. And I guess, stretching one night of oil to last eight nights is a pretty lame miracle compared to oh, say, Rosh Hashanah, which celebrates that one time G-d created the entire world.

Plus considering how often the Christians have killed off large numbers of Jews, it's not hard to see why just maybe Christmasizing Hanukkah could make Jewish families a little bit cranky, especially when you have to start hearing about it back in October (something that, for the record, makes me cranky as well).

The highly controversial "Hanukkah Bush"

I mean, why should Hanukkah have to compete with Christmas? And when did Christmas get so competitive anyway? Why can't Hanukkah be its own thing?

So, this year we'll carve out a little spot for Hanukkah at our house.

I don't have a menorah, but I have some lovely silver candelabras that were my great-aunt's; I think she'd appreciate the sentiment. And I've never made latkes, but I'm going to make regular pancakes for dinner and that's always a treat when you're four (or if you're my husband). And Peep has asked to make gingerbread men cookies-- "Except can they be girls?"-- er, okay, gingergirl cookies.

And we can absolutely celebrate miracles. Even little ones.