ANCHORS AND SAILS: Find your holiday

Brenda Kelley Kim
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“A holiday is an opportunity to journey within.”


Honestly, at this point, I would take a ticket to ride anywhere because, so far, this holiday season’s “journey” has been one of cleaning out closets, mopping floors, and organizing way too much stuff. In our house, we celebrate Christmas, but you’d never know it since the tree is not up, there are no lights, no décor, and not a single bit of holly or other seasonal plants. I’m just not there yet. While I miss the days of visiting Santa, making lists, and staying up late to wrap gifts that the jolly old elf left at my house (I try to be a helper), it’s kind of neat not to have to worry about all of that. Christmas looks a little different now with all three of my children over 21. My middle boy was born about a week before Christmas, and I named him George Bailey, so there’s always a little built-in holiday cheer. The rule was that no decorations could go up, and we would not get a tree until after George’s birthday, lest it get lost in the Christmas shuffle. 

Marblehead Current columnist Brenda Kelley Kim.

So now I’m left with adjusting to a smaller tree, fewer ornaments, and a low-key holiday, and I am loving it. It’s a different experience, but it’s not bad different; it’s good different. I was chatting with a friend, and she was reminiscing about bringing up her kids, how she did the holidays, and how she experienced them as a child. 

I saw some pictures online of another friend who is going retro and found a perfect mid-century modern silver Christmas tree with pom-pom branches. It’s a gorgeous classic, and it took me back to when I was little and we had the same kind of tree. Of course, we also had the colored disc that spun around and turned the tree into a glowing aluminum rainbow. My Christmas memories are of that tree, mercury glass ornaments (which are now highly collectible, and I shudder to think how many I dropped and broke), and a styrofoam Santa face that hung on our door. 

A college classmate in Vermont was from the state and remembered going to a neighbor’s farm and picking out a tree. The concept of a store-bought or silver tree was foreign to her. Someone else I know is Jewish, and while Hanukkah is not “Jewish Christmas” and should not be referred to as some kind of pseudo-Christmas, she remembered going caroling with friends who celebrate Christmas because she liked to sing. She also sang at temple services, and I attended one that was flat-out amazing. That’s when the little lightbulb in my head went off, and I realized that we all find our holiday at this time of year. 

For some, it’s a tree farm, Buffalo plaid pajamas, hot cocoa bombs, and midnight mass. For others, it’s building a gingerbread house, putting candles in the window, and leaving carrots out for reindeer. Here’s a tip; if you throw some oats on your lawn and add some of that colored sugar that goes on the cookies, maybe in red or green? The reindeer will see your house first because it will sparkle. That’s what I did when my kids were little, and it always worked. Back then, I found my holiday in making cookies and always being the one under the tree guiding it into the stand. I was nine months pregnant and still under that tree, with needles up my nose, because that was how it worked out. That was where I found my Christmas, my holiday.

At this time of year, a lot is going on. Whether your house is figuring out Christmas or Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Saturnalia, or some holiday I don’t know about, we are all just trying to find our way through what can be a chaotic time. I like that there’s a good amount of reflection, gratitude, and goodwill happening in the space of about thirty-seven days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. We might not understand everyone’s holiday experience, but what we have in common is much more important. At this time of year, the common thread I see is that we are all trying to be a little nicer, a little more welcoming, and a little more aware of what those around us need. Sometimes it’s a silver tree; sometimes it’s a meal with family; maybe it’s collecting warm coats for others or having Chinese food and watching a movie. I will be making an effort this month to concentrate on something other than traditional holiday ideas. I’m going to work on figuring out how to find my new holiday now that the kids are older and the game has changed. I also hope everyone else finds their holiday, their celebration, their special time, whatever it looks like. Life is good, no matter how you choose to celebrate this time.

Brenda Kelley Kim is a regular Marblehead Current columnist. 

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