This time of year is filled with family and cultural traditions, many of which evoke strong feelings of conflict and disharmony. Most folks realize how quickly family conflicts can turn happy occasions into a tense, stressful experience and convert the most festive frame of mind into a not-so-festive spirit.
Some of this brouhaha strikes me as irrelevant, irreverent and silly. For example, one couple argued so fiercely about whether the correct name for a traditional side dish was stuffing or dressing that they took time out of their busy schedule to write “Dear Abby” and ask her to settle the argument.
The arguments about how to cook stuffing/dressing are only slightly less silly than what to call the dish. Seems those who think cooking it inside the bird creates a moister, richer dish, infused with turkey juices should cook it in the bird and those who believe that cooking it outside the bird decreases the chances of food poisoning should cook it outside the bird. In the event one’s dinner guests have mixed preferences, the host could cook some in and some out. This might lead to more enjoyable table conversation.
On a much more serious note, I’ve come to view the tradition of spending time with family as demand rather than a desire. In many families, this tradition has turned into emotional torture and diminished the ability to maintain the spirit of the season or enjoy the celebrations. I question the wisdom of blindly adhering to this tradition.
Before you jump to the conclusion that I have little or no experience with this tradition, let me assure you that many of my cherished Christmas memories include huge family celebrations shared with parents, grandparents, siblings, in-laws, cousins, and cousins of cousins, etc. Conversely, I’ve spent many unhappy and guilt ridden Christmases because I couldn’t be in two places at the same time. Other Christmases were spent being angry at myself because I allowed my children only a few moments to open their gifts before I insisted they help me spruce up the house because family was coming or pushed them out the door to spend hours running from one relative’s house to the next just for the sake of tradition.
The most magical Christmas celebrations I’ve experienced were the ones spent with young children. Children instinctively know how to enjoy the moment and be excited about the feasting, festivities and gifts. Plus, they believe in the magic surrounding the birth of one Special Child.
This Christmas I will spend time remembering the birth of that Special Child. I will attempt to regain a sense of innocence, to become childlike once more and to see the world with wonder. I will try to see beyond what is and view what should be. Seeing Christmas through the eyes of a child is a wonderful way to renew one’s faith in mankind.
Betty Freeman Haines, an author and award winning columnist, lives in Mesquite, NV. Her books/e-books, Reluctant Hero and Grieving Sucks or Does It, can be ordered from amazon.com. Share your thoughts and opinions with her at email@example.com