I have to admit that I am rushing the Christmas season this year. I’m ready for a normal time, whatever that really is. It’s been so long since anything has felt routine that I’m not even sure that I know how to handle a Christmas like those in the past, but I’m going to do my best to get back into the saddle again. I have my fingers crossed that my dreams are not dashed by a really bad influenza season or even a last gasp return of Covid. It appears that our big family Christmas Eve is on once again without restrictions and I’m going to do my best to have my Christmas Day Gumbo fest for the big extended family.
There are other traditions that I plan to enjoy like the Christmas lunches with friends and my absolute favorite, attending the Dickens on the Strand festival in Galveston, Texas. I can’t really explain why I enjoy it so much but it always warms my heart to stroll back in time. My husband and I don Dickensian costumes and walk around the historic area of Galveston sipping Christmas punch while marveling at the people who are as decked out as we are.
There is always a grand parade featuring St. Nicholas and bagpipers filling the air with their delightful music. Christmas and revelry is in the air, especially when the weather turns cold, which is somewhat rare in the more tropical climate of the coastal city. Those of us who attend do a great deal of pretending that we are living back in the day when Charles Dickens invented stories like A Christmas Carol.
In the past I’ve gone to the Nutcracker Market which is an extravaganza designed to raise funds for the Houston Ballet. For some reason I can’t seem to arouse my usual excitement for attending the crowded event this year. The fact that I can’t find anyone who wants to accompany me to the affair is a fairly good sign that I am not alone in deciding to skip that tradition this year.
I’m excited that I will finally be able to visit with a friend who is in a nursing home after almost three years of not seeing her anywhere but on Facebook. She had a stroke and is no longer able to talk, which is quite sad because it was always so delightful to spend time conversing with her. Nonetheless, I want her to know that I have not forgotten her so I’ve already purchased a gift and set a tentative date for visiting her. I suppose I am more excited about that than anything else I am planning.
What I really like about Christmas is giving. I take great delight in making cookies and sharing them. I remember mixing batches of cookie dough with my mom in the long ago. We’d spend a whole Saturday baking dozens and dozens of cookies that we stored in tins until visitors came to our home.
I laugh about one Christmas time when my aunt arrived at our house with her two boys when Mama and I were baking. They began grabbing and devouring the cookies almost as soon as they came out of the oven. We baked furiously, attempting to get ahead of them, but our efforts seemed fruitless. Then my aunt decided to adjust our recipes by putting gumdrops in all of our batter. My mother and I just looked at each other wondering how things could have gone so wrong. After they left Mama announced that she would purchase new ingredients and we would attempt to bake our cookies again on another day. I still laugh about that memory. My mother was so gracious and would have given me the evil eye if I had openly complained about my cousins’ voracious appetites.
So who knows how it will go this year? I intend to make the most of the season even if I have to adjust like we did when our unexpected guests consumed all of our cookies. If the last couple of years have taught me anything, it has been to be ready for a change of plans. It makes me thing of my friend Pat Weimer who always proclaimed that it was wise to have Plans B, C and D in our hip pockets because we never know when we will need them.
Pat’s the one who taught me how to be ready to entertain at a moment’s notice. Her formula was spectacular: always have a roll of cookie dough in the refrigerator and some ice cream in the freezer. Keep the kitchen countertops clean. Swish out the guest bathroom regularly. Have a junk room ready for storage of items in a quick pick up of the living room. Light a candle for a nice scent. Smile when the guests arrive and have a fabulous time.
I am so ready. Let the celebration begin. Who knows I may even stumble upon a new tradition and learn how to change old ones. Any way I look at it, I sense that it will be fun.