Good evening, friends and neighbors. I hope everyone had/is having a splendid holiday season, and are getting everything out of this time of year that you hope to.
Since I’ve grown up, Chanukah has always been just a sort of… thing that was celebrated. Eight days long, and the special stuff really only happens at night. Otherwise, everyone just goes to work or school and life continues.
There aren’t any hilarious or tragicomic movies about trying to get home to light the menorah- that’s what I’m trying to say here. We got some awesome stories about religious freedom, tasty fried foods, and one of my favorite Herschel of Ostropol stories– we’re good with that.
(The less said about “Eight Crazy Nights” the better.)
I suppose that’s something that DOES make Christmas kind of an enjoyable time for me- it’s only one or two days.
This year, Christmas was fantastic.
Emily and I went out for Chinese, then stayed home and did absolutely NOTHING.
Besides the funny-but-serious-and-totally-true joke of Jewish people going out for movies and Chinese on Christmas Eve/Day, I tried giving myself permission to do NOTHING for two days.
I took long walks in the middle of the day.
I tuned and played on my guitar for the first time in months.
I made cookies for friends, went to a DnD party, and cooked for myself.
If that sounds like no big deal… you’re right. It shouldn’t be.
It was for me, though.
If you haven’t picked up on it yet, I’m the kind of guy who always has to have a project. I’ve always got something in the works, scheming something, planning something or other. It’s not necessarily a good thing– I tend to feel guilty if I’m not constantly working toward one of my goals.
For Christmas, I gave myself the gift of a day to relax and enjoy things.
Predictably, in lieu of thinking about a project… I got to thinking about the past.
A Long Way From Home
On Christmas Day, Emily and I woke up late and called around to her family (all Episcopalian) and mine (Jewish, but my sister was making a holiday dinner anyway.)
I said that Chanukah was never really such a big deal for me… but holidays are, especially since moving out here to Oregon. We FaceTime’d everyone we could- and predictably my family was all in the kitchen helping my sister out.
My little sister walked the phone around as everyone waved and chatted (from thousands of miles away, I STILL found myself guiding my family through baking cookies. When a recipe says to “roll out” something that has the dimensions of a log… don’t use a rolling pin.)
When you are feeling isolated, even small moments like that can feel incredible- and when you are craving community, the shallowest holidays can feel like… well, holy days.
For the movie portion of Christmas Eve, Emily and I decided that it would be pajamas, whiskey, and Netflix rather than shelling out for a movie we were only kinda interested in. We started with “Black Panther,” which was excellent. Then we decided to watch Disney’s “Coco.”
To quote my sister- “Instead of Netflix and Chill, it’s Pixar and Cry.”
Yes, I get weepy at movies.
I learned something interesting recently. During the Viking Expansion of the 9th Century, young Scandinavians would spend the harsh winters at home playing games, reciting poetry and stories, and recounting legends. Besides teaching them how to live in tight quarters with others without going stir-crazy, these cultural comforts could be taken far from home.
That’s the other thing I find myself thinking about often this time of year- memories and legacies.
What did I do this year?
What have I accomplished?
Where have I gone? What did I learn?
Did I leave any stories behind for people to tell?
I can’t really know the answer to that last question, of course… but answer the others will help with the next ones:
What will I do this year?
What do I want to accomplish?
Where will I go? What do I hope to learn?
What kind of stories will I leave behind?
As it is, I will be publishing at least one book next year, with the hopeful intent that it will help others by smoothing what can be a difficult transformation.
There will probably… hopefully… be a whole lot more.
For right now though-
A Last Cup of Tea
As I write this, I’m watching the clock to make sure I catch the bus in time to go to work. I’ll be working late again- as I will until New Year’s Eve.
Something I keep seeing is that the winter solstice celebrations around the world weren’t all about waiting for spring to come. They were also times to pause and “take a breath.” Collect yourself and consider things.
It’s a time to stay put, get comfortable, and reflect on the year.
A time of memories, legacies, and stories-
the ones you leave behind, and who is going to tell them.
Happy New Year, everyone. Thanks for joining me so far, and I’ll see you in the new year.
This should be interesting.