I’m sitting in Rev, a little independent coffee shop near my workplace in the ‘burbs of Atlanta, drinking a decaf peppermint mocha latte (made with hazelnut milk I provided, natch). Just the smell of the drink wafting toward me as I carried it to the couch took me back to happy memories of childhood Christmases. When I got back to work today after my vacation last week, I discovered that my co-workers had put up and decorated our lobby Christmas tree in my absence. That, too, filled me with warm and fuzzies. I had thought, this weekend, that maybe we just wouldn’t put up our tree (a fake tree we got from Freecycle, as I can’t tolerate real pine with my allergy levels now)–but walking in to work, I let out a small sigh of pleasure at the sight of the lit, decorated tree. Why is it that the holidays themselves often fill me with dread while I still cling to the notions surrounding them?
Concerning Thanksgiving, Anne at Angry Fat Girlz wrote a post where she said, “Thanksgiving is just one meal out of 21 for the week, just one out of over a thousand for the year.” That’s true, of course, and I would do well to remember that with holidays: there is no sense imbuing them with an enormous sense of importance when they are, in fact, just a few days out of my life each year. They don’t have to be the best days, and they don’t have to be the worst days of the year. I have tons of great days when I get to do exactly what I want when I want with the people I want while experiencing only happy emotions. I want the holidays to be my ideal, but without hurting other people (family, primarily), that may not be possible. Part of being an adult is finding healthy boundaries, and that’s not always easy. Do I do what I want, which can make me happy but be selfish? Or do I do what my husband/mother/friend/siblings wants, even if it’s not necessarily easy for me? It’s a balancing act.
On the other hand, holidays are important. I’m someone who loves to celebrate; I’m Christian, so Christmas has spiritual meaning for me; and I’m a person who believes that setting aside time for special occasions, for traditions, for remembrance, matters on personal, familial, and cultural levels. So I don’t need to only tolerate holidays but also figure out ways to enjoy them, if I can.
Recognizing all of that, how can I make the holidays happy occasions for me?
I know some ways, of course; I have developed some coping methods, and I’ve been developing some traditions of my own around them. For example, last year, we started having a dinner out with friends instead of exchanging gifts; we’ll either do that or have an after-dinner party this year. (Or both!) We had a great, social time that rejuvenated me (even as it exhausted my introverted husband). Another is that Dan and I traditionally give at least some gifts that are donations to good causes, and they are my favorite ones to pick out.
I need to come up with a general game plan for Christmastime, especially since I’ll be spending a week at the distant home of my husband’s aunt, who finds my allergies/intolerances overwhelming to contemplate, especially in light of the fact that she already deals with terribly picky eaters in her husband and kids. (I don’t mind making my own food, even enough food for everyone, but it is strange taking over someone’s kitchen for a week, or preparing a different meal for myself every day for a week.) I should try to make it an adventure; I’m good at having adventures, especially in faraway places. Hmm. . . .
One of my Christmas traditions is to bake lots of goodies, usually from scratch, and I wisely made my December *new activity of the month* learning to bake gluten-free, casein-free, and allergen-free (egg-free, soy-free, etc.). Part of what I love about baking–and cooking, but baking seems more discrete–is the tiny bit of perfection in the world, this complete, good thing, that results from my labor. When I’m baking without eggs, gluten, casein, etc., that’s a bit more complicated, and I will have to exhale, consistently, some of the perfectionist tendencies I am dealing with (probably in the forms of great sighs, ha ha–I’m a big sigher). I’m definitely thrilled to have all the blog recipes (tried and true recipes are the best, so thanks, all you bloggers), and I’ve been saving a batch I want to try to my del.icio.us page; but many of the recipes I’ll be making are ones I’ll be converting in some way–replace the soy, replace the eggs, replace the–you get the idea. A bakery team out of Austin, TX, whom I contacted (I’ll email anyone) was kind enough to send me suggestions for Sally-friendly bread baking, so that is exciting, if a bit nerve-wracking. Can good sandwich bread exist without gluten, eggs, or dairy?? We’ll see!
Maybe I’ll just stop this post here, actually, with these questions for you, dear reader:
Question 1. What holiday tradition or activity do you just love that you want to share with me? What just lights you up at the holidays?
Question 2. Is there a baking recipe that fits most or all of my restrictions that you think I should try in December (or later)?
If you want to offer me an answer to either question, please leave it in the comments so that others with similar frustrations and/or restrictions can see. And thank you in advance–I truly appreciate the support.