Saturday, December 22, 2012

An Alternative Christmas

Merry Christmas, y'all!
It occurs to me that among holidays, Christmas requires even more advanced preparation in order to be able to celebrate as we are accustomed to on the day itself than some of the others. One could come home from work on October 31 and ransack one's closet for a costume to wear to a Halloween party that night. As long as the turkey isn't frozen, one could pick it up from the grocery store the day-of, along with some fixin's, and enjoy the day with friends and football with a minimum of fuss. (Generally speaking, fuss is directly proportional to the length of the guest list and the size of the meal.) But Christmas? To carry on as usual and then drop everything for 1-2.5 days (or 12, depending on country and tradition) would be...weird. Insufficient. Sudden. I guess that's why Advent is the season of waiting and preparation, huh? Christmas seems to require a holiday meal and baked goodies, presents that have to purchased and wrapped (and sometimes shipped) ahead of time, greeting cards with a newsletter to family and friends we may have been ignoring the rest of the year, and of course decorations around the house: fresh-chopped fir tree and nativity scenes inside, lights on the eaves and bushes outside. It wouldn't be Christmas without those things--would it?

I find myself particularly crunched for time this year, because I am trying to finish a semester of teaching (that means grading), and a dissertation chapter (personal deadline: Dec. 31), and a lot of paperwork. The paperwork is for various financial aid and fellowships for next academic year (August 2012-May 2013) and is due to my department by Feb. 1, but instead of using January for a "break" (and applications), I'm flying to Germany for research instead. That has required quite of a bit of preparation, too! Thankfully I have been able to make time for "Christmas" this Advent season. Here are some of the slightly... "alternative" ways I've been celebrating.

If Rainbow Brite celebrated Christmas, this is what the lights
on the bushes in her front yard would look like. Also: snow!

Seculo-Religious Party
At my department's annual holiday party, it has recently become a tradition, once most of the guests have left, for Dear Husband to play the host's piano while the rest of us sing. My one adviser is German by extraction and not otherwise religious but insists that we only sing proper Christmas songs. However, he left early this year with his young children, so the rest of us mixed "O Come All Ye Faithful" with "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree." And ended the night belting out Beatles tunes and "Born to Be Wild."

Deconstructed Christmas
Every year one of the pastors at church writes "an alternative" Christmas play. This isn't your traditional pageant with the oldest boy and girl playing Joseph and Mary, three kings, some shepherds, and a gaggle of kindergartners as angels. Rather, it's a "deconstructed" drama set some time in modern history (usually "the present," but last year it was set in the 1950s). And it grapples with "the true meaning of Christmas," what Joseph might have said to Mary, or how Christians can best practice discipleship in the world today. It's an all-church production involving the praise band, chancel choir, children's choirs, teen band, and youth and adult actors. Of all the Christmas dramas I've seen here, I thought this year's was the best. "Stealing Christmas" tackled church hospitality, pastoral burn-out, vandalism, homelessness, and illegal immigration.

Road-Trip Christmas, Part 1
A member of our congregation is living 1.5 hours away at a facility with the nursing staff to accommodate her respirator, which she uses because of advanced ALS. One of her friends organized a bunch of us to go caroling there last Sunday afternoon. We caravaned over, sang for her and some of the other residents, and then drove on back. I'd like to think that the elderly woman who held my hand and cried was moved to tears by the gesture rather than the poor quality of our singing, as our renditions of "Joy to the World" and "Frosty the Snowman" were more heartfelt than tuneful.

Christmas by Proxy
Our Bible study group has a tradition of shopping at the local Toys R Us for the Marines' Toys For Tots charity. We get to wander around the store, reliving our childhoods and critiquing the current taste in playthings. After purchasing some Legos, board games, stuffed animals, outdoor toys, and plastic dinosaurs, we go next door to the Barnes & Noble for Starbucks hot drinks and conversation until they kick us out at closing time. One of my brothers requested a donation to charity this year instead of presents, so DE, these are "for you"!

DIY Christmas
Dear Husband recorded a Christmas CD of organ music earlier this year. I recently created the cover art for the jewel cases by cutting down old Christmas cards. This was a waaay more satisfying way to spend a morning than slogging through some dull scientific text in German. (Yes, those exist!) Some of these CDs are gifts for family, and the rest are going to elderly churchfolk for whom the holiday will be especially tough. I like the orange one on the far right, the only one we haven't given away yet.

Road-Trip Christmas, Part 2
DH and I live away from family, so the second part of our road-trip Christmas will be driving to his parents' house on Christmas Day. We will eat a family dinner and open presents with the kids that night. I hear there's also a trip to the aquarium in the works. We'll drive back home in time to go to the big city for New Year's Eve--I'll try to post an entry about that quick trip before I fly off to Germany. Fröhliche Weihnachten!

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