Christmas season makes me reliably nostalgic and sad for the seasons gone by. I am homesick for one and my paternal grandparents whom I was very close to had birthdays around Christmas. They are no longer with us but I miss them still and I suspect always will.
Christmas in Estonia was always blisteringly cold and usually white. I can’t recall a single Christmas in that small northern country sandwiched between the Baltic Sea and Finland that wasn’t white. We would always eat the same holiday dinner: pork with crackling, roast potatoes, sauerkraut, blood sausages with lingonberry jam and pickled pumpkin. There were many that craved or crave something new and exiting such as duck for the holidays but I have cooked the same exact Christmas dinner my entire adult life which mirrors my childhood ones almost to a tee. There’s a certain comfort there, the delicious smell of it all cooking takes back to my childhood and makes me feel like it’s really really really Christmas. We’d spend the day cooking, then go to church, then go to the graveyard to light the candles. It wasn’t a sad moment, necessarily, but a solemn and sacred ones. And the graveyard looked beautiful all lit up in hundreds of candles. Hot sauna awaited and after that we all dressed up for dinner, followed by Santa’s visit and then dessert.
We would visit with friends and neighbors the day after and then drive 3 hours to my grandparents house for another feast. I loved seeing my three aunts and their families and getting a second round of gifts by the tree. We went outside to the see the fireworks in the snowy, white night and ran on the road, stopping to hug our family and off we went again under a big starry sky. It was amazing. And I am so terribly sad that my children won’t know it for all our relatives live in different states and countries from Florida to Australia. They rarely see family and I feel they really miss out on this wonderful unconditional love.
So I suppose that is why I always put so much effort into holidays, in my mind they give you permanence and structure to your years. I hold dear old traditions and try to initiate a few new ones. I guess I like to make memories: be it in a form of a gift or a compliment, dinner or a book. By making each occasion a little bit special, perhaps it will lift someone’s spirits or add a memory to cherished or comforted by at some point in our lives. I’ll miss my grandparents but I tie on my grandmother’s apron when making gingerbread cookies with my daughters or get some sugar out of a bowl that belonged to them, I feel them with me.
I hope you will have a wonderful Christmas. That you’ll feel loved and happy and have someone in your life to be grateful for and have enough magic in you to create a special memory for someone else. Merry Christmas!