The Grinch was right about Christmas excess
By MARIBETH CRANDELL
Whidbey News Times Contributor
December 20, 2011 · Updated 2:57 PM
I hate to be compared to the Grinch, but I share his sentiments about all the commotion generated around the holidays. I don’t spend much time shopping. I cringe when I hear the latest celebrity singing “Santa got run over by a reindeer.” I’m easily overwhelmed so tend to stay away from the malls and crowded department stores. Just the pile of ads in the local newspaper seems a bit much.
I read the articles about how to shop wisely so you don’t max out your credit card and end up paying off debt for the rest of the year. Or how to avoid cyber crime while you shop online. I spent Thanksgiving with my family and was shocked to see the TV anchorman interviewing people who spent the holiday camping out by the big box stores in the hopes of getting a cheap TV. I’ve read that Americans generate 25 percent more garbage between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Is that what Christmas is all about?
Unlike the Grinch, there’s a lot I enjoy about the holiday season. Walking home after dark the neighborhood is enchanting with colored lights and sparkling trees. Friends and I go caroling and then return to the fire for hot cocoa and cookies. I walk downtown visiting local shops finding just the right gifts while greeting old friends. A slower paced, local holiday satisfies my sentimental tendencies. I watch old Jimmy Stewart and Bing Crosby movies and reminisce about my holidays as a child.
Growing up in North Carolina, my extended family would gather at my great-grandmother’s house on Christmas Eve. The heart of it was a cabin built during the Revolutionary War. Since then it has been added on to in every direction. Small tables were set in every room with a red table cloth and a sprig of holly. The children sat in the wide front hall around a sheet of plywood. The buffet line started in the dining room, moved through the kitchen and into the hall where we helped ourselves to all the traditional favorites. A large pottery bowl of my grandmother’s drinking custard was surrounded by small squares of pound cake for dessert.
After dinner we children would approach the “Choosing Tree,” a dead branch mounted over my great-grandfather’s roll top desk. There were used books, patchwork purses, polished rock jewelry, jars of jam, candles and other homemade goodies hung from the branches or sitting on the desk. It was always fun to stand among my cousins and examine each one before making a choice. My great-grandmother sat by the fire and opened a few presents. Then the aunts and uncles exchanged gifts. Soon it was time for the drive home. Staring out the window into the night sky I kept an eye out for Santa’s sleigh.
That’s the kind of Christmas I try to recreate for myself and my loved ones each year. Though we no longer meet at the family homestead, we still enjoy a homegrown holiday. We make gifts and decorations, light candles and cook together. We go out for walks and return to warm ourselves by the fire. The focus is on family and friends coming together, bringing a warm glow to the darkest time of the year. And after the dishes are washed and the children are in bed, I still look up at the night sky in wonder. Even the Grinch can appreciate that.
Think about what is most precious to you this holiday season. What traditions would you like to keep? Make sure those meaningful moments don’t get lost in all the commotion. And if you need help weeding the rest out, call the Grinch.
Maribeth Crandell is the city of Oak Harbor’s