Cold and cloudy with lots of rain…Maybe a few days this month…But now, it’s time for hot tea and maybe a fire with dried lavender or rosemary clippings adding fragrance to the room…time to sit and reflect, time to think about the rapidly approaching holiday season. TIME…my heart pounds and panic sets in…STOP.THINK about it, what does “HOLIDAY” mean? While observing the varied rituals of preparation over the last twenty years I’ve seen people so obsessed with shopping, cooking, shopping, traveling, decorating, shopping, parties, and so on…that no time was left to really enjoy the holidays. We all just focused on surviving the season, allowing ourselves to become stressed, fatigued and emotionally drained while trying frantically to create, achieve, do, find and buy!
The joyful spirit of giving and sharing often gets lost in the holiday season. But giving can be more fulfilling if we remember that the best gift is one that creates something special between you and the person receiving the gift…
…a tray of potted herbs and the promise to help with the planting or just a promise to help work together in your gardens; a basket of organic coffee beans and homemade cookies; a few handmade stepping stones for a garden path; a fresh herbal wreath made with your own herbs; vinegar and oil flavored with herbs from your garden; a lovely sleep pillow filled with lavender buds; a red wagon or custom painted wheelbarrow for hauling; a collection of old tools; rose petal jam in lovely old liqueur glasses; an old-fashioned crock of vin d’orange; gardening tubs, trimmers and trugs tied with pretty ribbons.
What makes giving truly special is taking the extra step and finding what personal thing you can make or do to delight someone you care about. A garden-gift will last for years and years…a perennial reminder of love and friendship. Remember the reason for the season!
Now, take time to relax, revive simpler traditions from the past or start your own.
Create a warm, inviting atmosphere for the holiday season…a wreath of green apples and red berries for the front door; the spicy, comforting smell of baking gingerbread; flickering candles; decking the halls with boughs of holly, sage, rosemary, thyme and fragrant flowers throughout the house.
Set aside time to invite friends and family to join you in the merry making of trims and treats. Nature herself provides all the materials; all you need are a few tools and some decorative bits of trimming and ribbons. Have everyone take something home that is a gift of the season.
If you were to travel back in time and visit a turn-of-the-century American home around the holidays, chances are you’d find the air scented with oranges and spices, freshly baked cookies, cakes and gingerbread, fragrant, fresh- cut greens swagged on porches, doorways, mantels and stairs or formed into wreaths…and tabletops filled with flickering candles, and trees dressed in silver and gold.
It is intriguing to consider that after more than a century we can still find the same decorations in our own homes today. These are the trimmings that appear again and again, and far from tiring of them, we cherish their familiarity…the tradition.
It is funny how our own holiday traditions can take root. You make a certain thing or something happens, or you plan something special and people really like it and then suddenly it is a ritual to look forward to year after year…the tree ornaments my daughters made so many
years ago; little red hearts and tiny felt animals made for our tree in the late 60’s; the apple and walnut stuffing for the turkey; cranberry and orange relish; bacon rollups on Christmas morning; candles in every window; garland made from cranberries and popcorn while drinking hot chocolate in front of a roaring fire in the fireplace; always a freshly cut or a living tree for a spot in the garden; caroling in Williamsburg, visiting and delivering cookies to the elderly at the Patrick Henry Home; my spicy Christmas puddings freshly baked for friends and neighbors; making fruitcake and fudge the day after Thanksgiving; and, ‘twas the night before Christmas…’
Tradition captures the spirit of the holiday season best…this spirit which shines from candlelit windows, echoes in friendly voices and shared laughter, and is carried throughout the home in the mingled aroma of wood fires, baking gingerbread and fresh-cut pine…and into our community and the world through our actions.
May your holiday season be filled with love and shared traditions…Patricia