Report from Louisiana: Rambling Thoughts on Christmas Spirit

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Report from Louisiana: Rambling Thoughts on Christmas Spirit

By: Pat Austin

SHREVE­PORT – I loved Fausta’s view from her front porch Sat­ur­day; it looks sunny and warm and is exactly why I love liv­ing in the South.

This morn­ing I was sit­ting in my swing under the mag­no­lia tree, sip­ping my cof­fee, read­ing South­ern Liv­ing mag­a­zine and watch­ing the yel­low hack­berry leaves flut­ter to the ground like feath­ers. It really never gets very cold here in Louisiana. My hus­band grew up in Iowa and he swears that the rea­son he has trou­ble get­ting into the Christ­mas spirit is because it never gets cold here and there is no snow.

We sort of skipped Christ­mas last year; it had been a rough and expen­sive year and nei­ther Steve nor I felt much like cel­e­brat­ing Christ­mas last year. I’m known in my fam­ily for my ceiling-​scraping tra­di­tional Christ­mas trees that are, of course, always real and fea­ture our heir­loom orna­ments and real tin­sel applied one sin­gle strand at a time. It’s a her­culean feat of dec­o­ra­tion each year and I’ve always enjoyed it, but last year I just couldn’t muster the spirit.

I went to Wal­Mart and I bought a fake, pre-​lit tree and I bought blue and sil­ver plas­tic ornaments.

You can not imag­ine the final damper this put on our Christ­mas holiday.

My grown son was hor­ri­fied. My friends were aghast. Nobody could quite believe it.

I man­aged to make Chex Mix but there were no fruit­cake cook­ies or fudge, and presents were token, imper­sonal items.

I just wanted it to be over. It was too much pressure.

On Decem­ber 26, I yanked that fake tree down, shoved it into a bag, and stuck it in the garage where it still is. The tree was pretty enough and if there is a fam­ily in need in my area I’ll prob­a­bly donate it to them.

This year has been a bet­ter one and although not with­out issues, so far they’ve all been things we can han­dle. I’m in the Christ­mas mood this year and have put up my real Fraser fir, com­plete with lights and tin­sel. There are actu­ally presents under the tree this year – well, not exactly under the tree yet because the new puppy would destroy them, but there are presents. I made my Mama’s fruit­cake cookie recipe, I’ve soaked the lit­tle things in Mak­ers Mark, and they are aging nicely. I made three giant pans of Chex Mix yes­ter­day and I’ve taken full advan­tage of Cyber Monday.

The point is that some­times these hol­i­days are hard for peo­ple. Very hard. The pain we feel at the absence of peo­ple who can’t be here is very real. The cel­e­bra­tions of our child­hood are often roman­tic and lovely and we feel such a pres­sure to recre­ate those, but too often that can not be accom­plished and we put more stress on our­selves. I think as I grow older I’m learn­ing to accept a new nor­mal with the hol­i­days, be it Christ­mas, Thanks­giv­ing, New Years, whatever.

Some­how, skip­ping Christ­mas last year has helped me this year to see things dif­fer­ently. The hol­i­day came and went last year whether I par­tic­i­pated or not. It wasn’t the end of the world and when it was over I was kind of glad I didn’t have a big mess to clean up and a lot of credit card bills to strug­gle with. I was a lit­tle envi­ous of all the big happy fam­ily gath­er­ings I saw going on around me – we have a very small fam­ily and not all of us like each other very much – but it was fine. I had those I love close to me and it really was just fine.

But this year, I’m ready to get back into the fray. I want the pretty pack­ages, the smell of the tree, the twinkly lights, and the plea­sure of find­ing just the right gift for someone.

I don’t want to be didac­tic, but try to be aware of those you know who may be strug­gling with depres­sion or other issues dur­ing the hol­i­days. For a mil­lion rea­sons there are peo­ple that do not feel the Christ­mas spirit that per­haps you feel. For many, the pres­sure to be as happy and per­fect as the peo­ple in the Christ­mas com­mer­cials is just too much. For a lot of us, the pain of an absent loved one is crippling.

Be kind. Be gen­er­ous when you can. Smile at peo­ple. Step back from pol­i­tics for a while. Quit wor­ry­ing about the tax bill. Who cares what Trump said on Twit­ter? Sit on your porch, in your swing, in front of your fire­place, and enjoy the sea­son in your own way. If that means skip­ping Christ­mas or going all out, do what­ever you need to do.

But most of all, be nice.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreve­port.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – I loved Fausta’s view from her front porch Saturday; it looks sunny and warm and is exactly why I love living in the South.

This morning I was sitting in my swing under the magnolia tree, sipping my coffee, reading Southern Living magazine and watching the yellow hackberry leaves flutter to the ground like feathers.  It really never gets very cold here in Louisiana.  My husband grew up in Iowa and he swears that the reason he has trouble getting into the Christmas spirit is because it never gets cold here and there is no snow.

We sort of skipped Christmas last year; it had been a rough and expensive year and neither Steve nor I felt much like celebrating Christmas last year.  I’m known in my family for my ceiling-scraping traditional Christmas trees that are, of course, always real and feature our heirloom ornaments and real tinsel applied one single strand at a time.  It’s a herculean feat of decoration each year and I’ve always enjoyed it, but last year I just couldn’t muster the spirit.

I went to WalMart and I bought a fake, pre-lit tree and I bought blue and silver plastic ornaments.

You can not imagine the final damper this put on our Christmas holiday.

My grown son was horrified.  My friends were aghast.  Nobody could quite believe it.

I managed to make Chex Mix but there were no fruitcake cookies or fudge, and presents were token, impersonal items.

I just wanted it to be over.  It was too much pressure.

On December 26, I yanked that fake tree down, shoved it into a bag, and stuck it in the garage where it still is.  The tree was pretty enough and if there is a family in need in my area I’ll probably donate it to them.

This year has been a better one and although not without issues, so far they’ve all been things we can handle.  I’m in the Christmas mood this year and have put up my real Fraser fir, complete with lights and tinsel.  There are actually presents under the tree this year – well, not exactly under the tree yet because the new puppy would destroy them, but there are presents.  I made my Mama’s fruitcake cookie recipe, I’ve soaked the little things in Makers Mark, and they are aging nicely.  I made three giant pans of Chex Mix yesterday and I’ve taken full advantage of Cyber Monday.

The point is that sometimes these holidays are hard for people.  Very hard.  The pain we feel at the absence of people who can’t be here is very real.  The celebrations of our childhood are often romantic and lovely and we feel such a pressure to recreate those, but too often that can not be accomplished and we put more stress on ourselves.  I think as I grow older I’m learning to accept a new normal with the holidays, be it Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Years, whatever.

Somehow, skipping Christmas last year has helped me this year to see things differently. The holiday came and went last year whether I participated or not.  It wasn’t the end of the world and when it was over I was kind of glad I didn’t have a big mess to clean up and a lot of credit card bills to struggle with.  I was a little envious of all the big happy family gatherings I saw going on around me – we have a very small family and not all of us like each other very much – but it was fine.  I had those I love close to me and it really was just fine.

But this year, I’m ready to get back into the fray.  I want the pretty packages, the smell of the tree, the twinkly lights, and the pleasure of finding just the right gift for someone.

I don’t want to be didactic, but try to be aware of those you know who may be struggling with depression or other issues during the holidays.  For a million reasons there are people that do not feel the Christmas spirit that perhaps you feel.  For many, the pressure to be as happy and perfect as the people in the Christmas commercials is just too much. For a lot of us, the pain of an absent loved one is crippling.

Be kind. Be generous when you can.  Smile at people.  Step back from politics for a while.  Quit worrying about the tax bill.  Who cares what Trump said on Twitter?  Sit on your porch, in your swing, in front of your fireplace, and enjoy the season in your own way.  If that means skipping Christmas or going all out, do whatever you need to do.

But most of all, be nice.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.