Monday, November 23, 2009

L.G.C. Smith

I love the winter holidays. There are so many directions I could take this, and I have to pick just one? Oh, to be Martha Stewart and have decades worth of television segments in which to develop my vision of the holidays.

Food. Decorating ideas. Crafts (though I know my limitations here). I could write about safety tips for lighting real candles on the Christmas
tree -- yes, I light 'em up when I have a fresh enough tree, or I want to scare someone.

There are all my slow food old-fashioned holiday recipes, and my new-fangled gluten-free ones. The picture above is a slow and GF Buche de Noel I made last year. There's my abstract Advent gift tree made from bamboo stakes, ribbon, and wooden beads, glue-gunned and tied together, then hung on a shoji screen.

Or, I could go the cultural commentary route. A childhood spent moving between American suburbs and non-standard places like Guam and assorted Indian reservations makes it easy to notice cultural weirdities. Like the enthusiastic Christmas light displays filled with Santas, reindeer, snowmen, and elves that filled the Filipino and Korean contract-worker housing enclaves in the tropical Western Pacific. Or my mother-in-law's 'stuffing,' which consists of tiny cubes of buttered, baked white bread. Nothing else. Bizarre.

Or the way we have these competing public conversations about holidays whereby the exact same experiences inspire loving behavior of the highest order in some folks, and angry condemnations of hypocrisy and gross consumerism in others. Or, why it becomes a mark of a more sophisticated holiday aesthetic to forego the classic Santa-suit red and Christmas-tree green color palette for, say, pink and turquoise. I can go highbrow or low. It's all good.

I could go the spiritual route because I love that stuff, and you can get away with it in public sometimes during the holidays. No matter what one's religious affiliation or lack thereof, holiday good-will embraces all comers. And personally, I love Advent. Love , love, love it.

When I was a kid, my mom made sure we always had an advent wreath. The year I was seven, my Sunday School class at the Presbyterian church in Window Rock, Arizona, I made a red construction paper cover for a tiny Advent book of folded, mimeographed pages. Inside was a Bible reading, a Christmas carol, and a single simple sentence that a second grader could memorize to say as we lit each week's Advent candle.

The next Christmas, my aunt g
ave us another little book called the "Advent Chain of Stars." It had a paper star to cut out and hang on a wide ribbon, one for every day of Advent, along with a little story to go along with it. For years we used these two simple books every day of every Advent season, and I loved the way the created the anticipation of waiting for a promise from God. I wouldn't say my sense of God is quite what it was then, but those daily, family observances of Advent helped me find deeper meanings to Christmas. They still do.

No, I haven't decided what to write about. I find so many holiday ideas, images and icons productive and fun to play with. Like a total sap, I know I'll catch myself singing "It's the most wonderful time of the year" as I put together the gingerbread house with my sis
ter and her daughter, all the while thinking about cultural reproduction and negotiation.


Rachael Herron said...

Aww. I love Advent so much, and we always had the German calendars growing up, each day a new surprise...

Unknown said...

I'm all for red & green, and silver & gold, and perhaps not pink and turquoise (no disrepect intended to anyone who loves those colors....)

That picture does not convey the magnificance of that Buche and sadly everyone else couldn't experience the sublime yumminess of it either.... It was incredible. :)

camille Minichino said...

I dunno -- that picture does a pretty good job! I want some!

Sophie Littlefield said...

Oh, that buche was magnificent!!! Truly a splendid accomplishment.

This put me in mind of advent calendars I made with my own children, as well as for their preschool classes. I loved those. Tomorrow I'm getting the boxes out of the attic so that on December 1st I'll be ready to celebrate with the kids.

L.G.C. Smith said...

My pictures of last year's buche weren't all that great. But it was tasty, and it was fun to make. Lisa's daughter's reaction when I brought it in for our critique group holiday potluck made it completely worth the s-l-o-w build. As I recall, there was a jaw-drop involved. I do love kids. :)

Tom Neely said...

I'm confused. All this talk about about advent calendars and not a word about the little chocolates you get each night when you open the door with that day's number on it. What's going on here?

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