Every year when the Christmas season rolls around, I feel like I turn in to the grinchiest of grinches. I never really understood why until the day I figured out that it was because I never have money. Now, I know that I am definitely not the first person to say this, but Christmas has become way over commercialized. Commercials on the tv and radio begin jingling at you and retailers cram their knock-down, blowout specials in your face before Halloween has even had a chance to be spooky. You can buy fake snow at Target before there is even any real snow on the ground. I get frustrated by sane people going nutso and frantic over last minute shopping sprees and I loathe the unspoken obligation of gifting to everyone that you have ever known. It's downright irritating.
I don't celebrate Christmas for its namesake like most other people do, but I do love the feeling of taking time to spread the love. Taking a breather to focus on all the good things that surround you (family, health and love) and regrouping for another year to come. It seems only natural to want to hunker down in these cold, northern lands and to appreciate those that you hold dear to yourself. The yuletide season has become especially magical now that we have Ava in our life. Every year the magic comes alive for her, and through her Rick and I get to relive the magic of our own childhoods. It's invigorating being around a little person who believes that anything is possible and for whom cynicism hasn't gotten in the way yet. It is Ava who drags me out of my grinchitude and who makes me forget the stress of holiday dollar signs.
Together the three of us have formed our own family traditions, one of which hails from Denmark. Instead of elves, the Danes have little elf-like creatures called nisse.
"A tomte (pronounced [ˈtɔ`mːtɛ]) or nisse ([ˈnìsːɛ]) is a mythical creature of Scandinavian folklore originating from Norse paganism. Tomte or Nisse were believed to take care of a farmer's home and children and protect them from misfortune, in particular at night, when the housefolk were asleep. Tomte is a common Swedish name, derived from his place of residence and area of influence: the house lot or tomt. The Finnish name is "tonttu". Nisse is the common name in Norwegian, Danish and the Scanian dialect in southernmost Sweden; it is a nickname for Nils, and its usage in folklore comes from expressions such as Nisse god dräng ("Nisse good lad," cf. Robin Goodfellow)."
My Danish host-mother, went to great lengths to show me most of their Christmas traditions, and decorated my room with many little paper nisse hidden in my room's shelves. I kept all of them, and now they come out every season to hide in our own home's nooks and crannies. Ava lights up at the sight of them, and you can't help but smile too. These are the moments that Christmas is made of. Not gift cards or gift receipts; not shopping malls or 4 a.m. discount prices; not bags, boxes or bows, but time well-spent with your loved-ones.
And in my own small way to stick to the corporate man, most everybody on my gift list will be getting hand-made gifts. Usually they are every year, but this year I'm feeling especially crafty. Thanks to my Ava-girl for the holiday perspective!