It was always only on Nov. 15 that we would listen to carols, when some started observing the Christmas Fast. The first snow would come around that time, too, as if some well-timed snow lever was pressed at the right time.
At the beginning of December, trees were bought and tucked away on porches or in the backyard until Christmas Eve; there were wishes circulated from children to parents, but most of all, there was a lot of sledding and snow tumbling until cheeks were red and cold at the end of each day. Snow fun reigned supreme and that was that.
A few days before Christmas, we baked vanilla-scented goodies, and on Christmas Eve we pulled out the old cardboard box filled with decorations to adorn the tree.
I still have a couple of those decorations, as my sister and I split them when the old house was sold. I have since built a tree-decorations box of my own. Every single decoration has a story.
Some the boys made at school or in art classes, some we made together at home, and some were gifted by close friends. The latest acquisitions, glass-made and hand painted by someone in Colombia, were bought from the thrift store ran by the RIH Auxiliary volunteers.
As Christmas approaches, flyers get plump with ads telling of decorations and lights and gifts and kitchenware to cook and bake in, and thermal gravy boats that will keep your gravy at a good yummy temperature, and, if you want, you can scratch the golden dust-covered area at the bottom of the page to see if you won a discount. Nothing? Try again next week, you never know.
And if you want outdoor lights, but are tired of climbing ladders and untangling lights, a patented holographic laser light projector will create the illusion of lights without the effort.
But the effort is what makes it all special. We tell our children that when we work for something, we value the accomplishment even more. Things that happen with no effort are easily forgotten.
Sure, putting up lights may get frustrating when tangles get in the way. Baking takes time and effort. Cutting the turkey with a regular carving knife versus the battery-activated one takes effort, too; as for the cold gravy, I don't think it's a deal breaker; you simply warm it up.
Holidays are what they are because people kept at it, efforts or tangles notwithstanding. The spirit of Christmas is not brightened by someone's ingenious way of marketing a product.
If anything, 'tis the season to be giving, and that applies to all that we do. More than ever, we need to remind ourselves that 'no effort' means 'no joy.' I'd rather have the boys learn about tangled wires and burnt cookies than not have the memory of anything that made my many Christmas seasons memorable.
'Tis the season to be giving is more than a slogan. The recent typhoon in the Philippines is a cruel reminder of how we cannot ignore the reality of climate change, some of which is caused by the many trucks rolling into our cities bringing more and more goods meant to make our lives easier and better and more sparkling at Christmas at the expense of those we don't see, and whose world we positively wreck as we wreck ours - one new seasonal item at a time.
Before you buy another new seasonal-themed product, be it an inflatable ready-decorated doghouse with an inflatable dog glued to it, or an inflatable, illuminated Santa you don't really need, or another battery-activated thing that will create the illusion of snowflakes (yes, it exists) think about the one thing that matters: Keeping it real.
Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, snowflakes are snowflakes and they are not meant to be holograms.
Better yet, set that money aside for the Christmas Cheer Fund and make someone's holidays brighter. Yours will brighten in response.
By the way, the hottest colour of the season is berry pink, one of the flyers says. Followed by "Ornaments and lights are available for you in hundreds of options."
To which I dare say this: the Grinch is no longer green but berry pink and he's stealing Christmas.
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Daniela Ginta is a mother, scientist, writer and blogger. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through her blog at www.thinkofclouds.com.