Monday, December 12, 2011

Guest Post -- Ann O'Farrell, Irish Author

I Love the Holiday Season

            I love the holidays. It is that special time to be with family and friends, to send and receive cards, letters, and thoughtful gifts. I love the food, the drinks, the festive decorations, and I love that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you hear all that holiday music. I love the holidays. Except for one or two little things….

            “Time to be with family” is a phrase that can be loaded with danger. It can mean it’s your turn to have Great Aunt Gladys. Aunt Gladys is the relative passed from family to family at holiday time like some floral-wrapped version of ‘pass the parcel.’ Children love her because she has more wind than a hurricane, but she is feared and dreaded by the adults, who must gratify her every whim in case stress will cause one of her ‘attacks,’ which will then involve an extended stay whilst she recovers.

             ‘Time with the family’ can also mean you have, in a moment of weakness, accepted an invitation to spend the holiday with your brother, his wife, and kids. Overcome with seasonal goodwill you temporarily forgot they lived in a two-bedroom house in the Ozarks. You temporarily forgot their enthusiastic St. Bernard who’s going to track you through hail, sleet, and blinding snow if you even try and escape from Byron Junior’s one hundredth attempt at Silent Night on the banjo.

            Being with friends is not necessarily the wisest move either. On one Christmas spent with friends we discovered that he had given her a fur coat as a token of his love and affection. It was the year that ‘hub’ and I had decided that goofy gifts were all we wanted. I listened to her rhapsodize about the cut, style, color and coziness all day till I silently wished she’d choke on a fur-ball. My penguin slippers had lost their goofy charm very early on. 

            Another little thing which occasionally mars my otherwise perfect enjoyment of the season is The Letter. This art form has been perfected in the age of the computer and sharpened by the twin evils of laziness and boastfulness. So, you compose a single, generic letter in which you list you and your family’s achievements for the past year. You then go on and on about the magical vacations you have recently enjoyed in places like Tahiti, Bali, Hawaii and any other exotic place ending in i. Yes, of course I’m guilty of writing the same kind of letter, but I really am very busy, my family members are truly great achievers, and as far as vacations are concerned we have decided to support home destinations this year. Anyway, Biloxi ends with an i too, though I’ll grant you it’s not exactly tropical.

            The cards that come with the letters are a joy to receive. Well perhaps that’s overstating it a bit, but they are slightly better than the ones that arrive without a letter.  When we open the Christmas mail we usually, tidily, throw away the envelopes. We then spend the holiday wondering how we could be so stupid and trying to decide if it’s from Aunty Katherine or Andy Kitchener, from The Brown Family or The Brain Fairy. We know the Brain Fairy is not likely, but we have no idea who the Brown family is either. At least I don’t think we do, which is part of the problem. Who are all these people who send us cards? And while we’re at it which Mary is it exactly who hopes to see us in the near future? ‘Lots of love, Squiggle,’ has caused more arguments in our house than who should have won the last election. The only cards which have clear signatures are usually the ones that arrive on Christmas Eve, and, with the usual fickleness of fate they are always the people we forgot to send cards to. Now it’s too late and you’re left wondering if sending a Happy New Year card will be too obvious, or should you just add them to the list for next year. Meanwhile they are busy scratching you off their list as they didn’t hear from you. This is called Christmas Card Ping Pong and can go on for years until you both give up and settle for the occasional E-mail.       

            However, apart from the above-mentioned dangers of ‘time with the family,’ and the various pitfalls in sending and receiving greetings, I love this season of ‘goodwill to all mankind’ except, perhaps, for the makers of particularly nasty-smelling toiletries. Cinnamon soap, Banana body wash and Blueberry shampoo have me walking around smelling like a badly concocted fruit salad. And who said cookie exchanges were a great idea at a time when we eat enough in one day to feed the Third World for a year? So, on reflection, maybe I can do without the gift thing, but everything else about this special time is wonderful.

            Around the first of December I begin to transform our humble home into a cross between a winter wonderland and Santa’s Workshop. This is no mean feat given that it is a small house, in Florida, where the temperature is usually warm enough to toast marshmallows without the fire. I admit our home does get a bit crowded at this seasonal time of year, what with the eight foot tree, the Christmas village, the collection of snowmen, the garlanded windows and doors, and the festive table arrangements on every surface, but it does reek of the festive spirit, and pine cones, and cinnamon. I just hate the part where I have to pack it all away. Every year I swear on the cold, dead carcass of the never-ending turkey that I will go to a hotel next year and the heck with decorating.

            But the music! Oh, the music, ‘Sleigh bells ring, Are you listening,’ ‘Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,’ ‘I’m dreaming of a White Christmas,’ what classics! Timeless! Evoking memories of seasons past and hopes of holiday seasons to come; they just never seem to gel with the Christmas I’m actually having. The one where I spend too much, eat too much and end up wondering what all the fuss was about in the first place.

            Oh well, ‘tis the season to be jolly,’ and I do love the holidays season, except for those few small things.  

Best Wishes,


1 comment:

  1. I love this. We'll never do it again. Until next year ...