December 10th, 2006



I joke about stressmas, but the truth is, I love Christmas preparations and I love Christmas. I do as much as I can to make sure that the holiday magic is there for both myself and my family. If that means knocking myself out for a month, so be it. The thing that actually causes the stress is that I can't leave off doing all the regular daily stuff to just concentrate on the holidaze!

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without the cookies, the tree, the ornaments, the nativity and all the hope that goes with it, the decorations, the cookies, the smell of pine and cinnamon, the COOKIES, the presents wrapped gaily under the tree, and the feeling of peace and optimism in the air. It doesn't take presents and it doesn't take snow and it doesn't take a belief in Santa.

I knock myself out putting together a letter and writing and addressing cards because I want people to know I'm thinking about them, and to fill them in on what we've been up to, and because I love getting cards in the mail myself.

I knock myself out getting all the decorations unpacked and set out, and decorating the tree because I want the people who come over during the holidays to feel like they've entered a warm and magical place full of pretty lights and colored balls and silver reindeer that might...might take a leap into the air at any moment. I knock myself out to preserve and continue the traditions that I hold dear, that remind me of home and childhood, to give those as the biggest gift each year to my own children so that they, too, will think there is something special in the air, something worth working hard to create and uphold.

I knock myself out collecting gift ideas for my family, and finding perfect presents throughout the year, because I think gift-giving should be a fun and personal thing (even if the last-minute stress to finish in time isn't always fun). It makes me feel good to give someone something they want or need. It's a joy to see the excited smiles on my children's faces and the mounting anticipation as the day draws near, and it's a thrill to watch them learn the joy of gift-giving for themselves. This year, they have both been busy and secretive with things they are making and preparing and wrapping (with much tape) as gifts for others. And yes, of course, it's fun to get things I want and need, too. :)

The music of Christmas makes me happy. Our concert today was wonderful. It was at Katrinetorp, during a huge Christmas market and we performed in the large salon of the old manor house with its high ceilings and trompe l'oeil wall murals. We sang in Swedish, Italian and English. The room was nearly full when we started and as people heard the singing, more and more came in until the back of the room was 3-deep in spectators. We rocked through Staffansvisan, Santa Baby and Rudolf Med Röda Mulen, and swung through White Christmas and Were You There on That Christmas Night? and crooned through several others. People were singing along, smiling, nodding their heads in time to the music. They applauded louder with each consecutive song. I felt like we were hovering off the floor by several inches.

Afterwards, I walked through the market, soaking up the smell of cinnamon and apples, but since I didn't have any cash on me I didn't look too closely at anything. Then I flew to IKEA and I have never, in 10 years, EVER gone through IKEA so fast. I swear it's true, I was there for maybe 15 minutes and there was NO LINE in front of me when I went to the cashier. Granted, I went straight to the bath department and grabbed the shower curtain liners I was there for, but a few other items managed to jump in my bag on my way to pay (wrapping paper, carrot-cake-scented tea lights, glass candle bases). I swung by a mall that is on the way home and picked up the printer toner and batteries and now the Christmas cards are 2/3 done and both trees have lights and the big tree is 1/3 decorated.

I may actually finish everything with a couple of weeks to spare if I keep up this pace!

Candy-Coated Cupcake Birthday Wishes to fiveandfour and tallefjant!