My earliest memory of Christmas is from when I was about 5 years old. My parents had split up by then and my older sister, my brother and I were living with my dad. I remember my sister telling us about dad and her going to see the 3-Wise Men (in the part of Mexico we lived in there was no Santa, instead the 3WM = 3-Wise Men--brought toys and presents for kids on January 6th)--and she went on to tell us about the things that we might be getting from the 3WM if we were good boys and behaved...surprise, surprise---on January 6th we got a toy truck (pretty much like the one below), candy, underwear and socks just like my sister had predicted! LOL
The next vivid memory of Christmas for me was when we moved from Mexico to Houston. Somehow or other in the move we managed to cram our old Christmas tree in the car--just in case we might need it--well times were so hard that first year with dad barely making enough and all those kids so when Christmas came around we dug out the old tree we actually brought from Mexico and put a few decorations on it. We didn't expect anything big until of course, LDS Church members came to the rescue with decorations, gifts, food, carols and goodies for all of us. It turned out to be a good Christmas after all.
While I was on my mission I spent 2 Christmases away from home. The first one was in Mexico City and the family that we rented a room from invited us with some of their friends or relatives--can't quite remember and the dinner was nice, lots of people and lots of booze which of course we didn't drink. I was asked to say a few words--which I can't even remember but it must have been an awkward message because I do remember people going back to their drinking and merriment right after that, LOL... the second Christmas was just spent with other missionaries hanging out and eating in Cuernavaca, it was nice and quiet. We always had a nice service and show with the President's family--they loved to sing, dance and put on a show for us--that's actually where I learned all about White Elephant gifts too!! :-)
Later on--Being married it meant that we had to spend time with both my family and in-laws. It was crazy because both families expected us to be there with them at the same time, it was hard to leave one house--because they weren't quite ready to do presents and such yet--then arrive at the next house and be told: "you weren't here, we opened presents already". I think that's when I started losing the joy for the holidays with the pressure of outdoing others for presents and the stress of "who are we disappointing this year"? Maybe it was just eagerness to please everyone and not being able to put our foot down and say: "look, we have to have our own traditions too, or we'll trade off every other year" try as we might it never worked out-- No bueno.
Fast-forward to now, I sure don't miss the anxiety and pangs of the holidays. Instead I focus on the kids, the babe and whatever little I can do to make it a special season--making the most of the circumstances. There have surely been adjustments in life, family dynamics and even revised/new traditions but I feel much, much better about the season and I don't have quite the anxiety levels I used to before. Sure, there is always so much more I could do so many more to touch and help, friends to remember and candles to light, but even in small ways, a lot of good things can happen.
I hope everyone who might read this has a very
Happy Winter Solstice Festivus
And if you're not with relatives, perhaps with friends or in any other possible way. If being with someone isn't an option I hope that at the very least the spirit of the season is enough comfort for now until times get better--that's how I used to make it through those dark times way back when...