You (probably) have your sights set on December 25, Christmas, about now.
Tree is up or going up soon,
presents are bought or at least on a list,
feast is planned — your house or theirs? — and guests invited,
the cookies have all been made,
the decorations are
strewn around the living room floor out.
sick and not quite yet tired of the Christmas music playing incessantly inside and out, wherever you are.
Roll out the fruitcake … It’s time we hung some mistletoe …
Sorry. I lost my place.
I particularly enjoy these early weeks of December, when certain ornaments, smells, cards, and songs release the memories of Christmases past.
One of my favorite memories involves my oldest son, Dave. He was maybe six and I took him and his younger brother, Jon, to see Santa who had made a special stop that year at their father’s place of business.
Unbeknownst to me, until he was atop Santa’s lap, David had brought the JC Penny catalogue from home and ever so casually leafed through the pages with Santa, pointing out those items he’d particularly like to receive.
Then, on the drive home, David casually mentioning that he thought “Santa looked an awful lot like Mr. Phxxxx,” one of his dad’s salesmen.
I make sure that memory doesn’t die.
Christmas, for me, changed once the kids grew up. Particularly when I moved far away from their new, adult lives. And it was most different those two years Woody and I were in Kazakhstan. There, December 25 was a workday, like any other. That made it easier.
The memoirist May Sarton once wrote,
“For most people, Christmas is rather an ordeal; what we do not have looms a great deal larger than what we do have.”
So, for those readers for whom Ms. Sarton’s words ring true, I give you something else to focus on between now and the new year:
Independence Day (s)
Four of them
Now, since my world began, some sixty years ago, Independence Day has been synonymous with July 4 (this is what is known as ethnocentrism, class). And July 4 has been synonymous with fireworks, picnics, and parades.
(There are many things I took for granted before I got out and saw the world. Summer time Independence Days is only one of them.)
My intensive research (early one afternoon) uncovered four countries whose Independence Days hover near Christmas.
Kazakhstan, Libya, Mongolia, and Haiti
In the interest of full disclosure, I will tell you that I already knew about Kazakhstan.
On December 16, instead of slogging through the fields (or among the sidewalk vendors) to find the perfect tree, send out good wishes instead, to the Kazakh people as they celebrate their independence (from Russia in 1991).
On December 24, rather than putting the final touches on your tree, or wrapping that last minute gift for Jimmie, send good thoughts to the people of Libya (independent from Italy since 1951). Lord knows, they can use them.
On December 29, while you’re resting up for the big bash on New Year’s Eve, (or feeling blue because this Christmas didn’t live up to your expectations, again) have a congratulatory egg nog for the people of Mongolia (independent from China since 1911).
And, on January 1, if you are able, help the Haitians celebrate their independence (from the French in 1804) with a congratulatory nod in their direction (or more egg nog).
This year, while you roll out the pastry dough, dust off your copy of Miracle on 34th Street, rack up the Christmas albums, or get those last few Christmas cards in the mail, think of the Kazakhs, the Libyans, the Mongols, and the Haitians partying in their own way. And join in their celebrations.
NOTE: this could be an ongoing, annual feature. Perhaps next year we’ll learn about Kwanza.
Happy Holidays, everyone.