Merry Christmas – or whatever that means?

These days there are loads of wishes flying around:

“Season’s Greetings” – “Have a great holiday” – “Happy New Year” (mostly in combination with one of the others) …

And of course: “Merry Christmas”

Although, I have to say, the last one is getting a bit under pressure. Of course, in our global society, one cannot always be sure if wishing “Merry Christmas” is appropriate, as your counterpart could have another religious or cultural background. And of course the last thing you want to do is to offend them – you want to wish them something nice. So … what do you do?

“Season’s Greetings” – I find these a bit wishy-washy (no offence meant). It does not really have any content, apart from the at least well-meant intention of wishing someone well, and specifically in December (although there is really no reason why “Season’s Greetings” could not mean a nice summer holiday…)

“Have a great holiday” – works if you know the other person actually has some extra free days, but is not very specific.

“Happy New Year” – great wish, but really only applicable next week 😉

So in the end I mostly still do say “Merry Christmas”. But what do I really mean with it? For me, “Christmas” does not necessarily mean the specific Christian celebration – although I do call myself a Christian (not a regular church-going though). For me, “Merry Christmas” is the short version of a mixture of feelings I get these days.

I guess, what I really want to say is: “I wish you to be surrounded by love and peace, filled with hope. I wish that you can always see a light in the darkness, that you even can be that light yourself.”

That’s my Christmas spirit. Even, no: especially in times like this. But it is a little bit long to say, so I just stick to “Merry Christmas.”

So, to all of you out there, no matter if you are religious or not (and absolutely no matter what type of religion that might be):

Merry Christmas (substitute with long version, if so desire)



Eye Trouble Continued – My endless story

Isn’t it ironic? Roughly two months ago I happily announced my blog anniversary, stating how much I like the whole blogging thing and that I would definitely go on.

A few days later my stupid eye injury raised its ugly head again, so I cut down on screen time. Obviously this blog is the first to feel it – I do rely on email for a lot of daily communication, but blogging is something that is not strictly necessary. As is reading books and writing … all the things I love to do. You can imagine my humour dropped.

November was not great, but December was worse. I spent a lot of time lying on the couch with my eyes closed. I managed to attend all the important pre-Christmas events at school (Christmas concerts, Christmas dinner for the children), we spent Christmas at the in-laws (saved me some cooking at least), but looking back now it all seems a blur.

It slowly got better and the last few days I started feeling like me again – the active me with plans and ideas, running up and down the stairs in my house (yep, we are back home again), tackling the chaos, shopping for groceries, that kind of stuff. I actually opened the book I got for Christmas from my mother-in-law, and yes, I dare look at the computer screen for more than a few minutes in a row.

And I stopped wearing my sun glasses in the house.

I had a chat with my eye-specialist (if you could call it a “chat”: I kept asking questions and he mumbled answers). We agreed to give it one more chance: four more weeks wearing that contact lens for protection, then take it off and see how it goes. If it turns bad again (with or without the lens), I will have another treatment, this time with a laser – apparently the success rate is much higher than with the one I had before, so fingers crossed. (Yes, of course: when I heard that I was thinking: why didn’t we do that in the first place then??? But it is a bit more expensive, and the insurance wants to try the cheaper one first, thank you very much.) If I interpret his mumbling correctly, my eye doctor thinks the cornea does look better and better, so maybe I have a chance to dodge another operation after all. We will see.

So hopefully it continues to go up from here – and I can start thinking and writing about other stuff again. And catch up with my reading… Just thinking of all the cool posts I have missed…. even if I only try to catch up with my four or five favourite blogs, this will mean a lot of work for my eye… But I will try to be patient, finish this post and then go offline again. Start the catching up tomorrow, maybe.

It is almost end of the year. Time to close a few not so nice chapters. Time to move on and concentrate on the nice things. There were a lot of those in 2014 too.



Christmas Thoughts

Looking back at Christmas Eve, what do I see?

It was a day filled with bubbling excitement and we-cannot-wait-any-longer feelings from the boys. I guess for them it was the longest day of the year.

There was the service at our church: a special children’s service with a Christmas play. The church was fully packed, over the time it got really hot and sticky in there, all children getting red ears and rosy cheeks. The service was nice, although the last half hour was probably stretching endlessly for the children.

Then heading home, the excitement reaching its peak. The little bell rang and there was the tree, glowing, with parcels underneath, and two little boys went “oooohhhh”.

We then enjoyed a little concert by two guitars (older boy and husband), accompanied partly by one singing voice (younger boy).

Afterwards the presents were opened in lightning speed and the living room was filled with delighted cries. Two boys were very happy. The adults opened their presents too, more slowly, smiling.

After some playing we had dinner – the boys ate more than I would have expected, being magically drawn back to their presents. They were not interested in dessert though. 😉

We let them play a little longer, than brought them to bed. They were tired, but content, looking forward to more play in the morning.

Husband and I then cleaned up the kitchen and settled cosily by the tree with our desserts.

What followed then is my personal Christmas ritual. When all the excitement has subsided, I love to sit next to the tree, listen to some music and start reading my Christmas book. (Christmas without at least on new book is no real Christmas for me. This year I was really lucky: I got four.) While husband started tinkering with his own present, I read a few pages, listended to the music, looked at the tree, read a few more pages, thought for at bit. Later I got the newspaper and skimmed through that – a mixture of Christmas related news and normal ones.

Looking after the tree for a while, the feeling that dominated me was that of deep thankfulness. Thankfulness because I could spend this lovely day with my family, being warm and sheltered and cosy. Being able to dress in festive clothes, give them presents, cook them a nice meal. Being able to sit next to the tree, knowing two healthy boys slept peacefully upstairs, one loving husband sitting next to me.

Thanks – to everyone, everything, God and the universe. And Merry Christmas.

(I know this post is soppy, irony-free and probably boring…. but today it does feel good to just be happy.)

December Choices

This blog has not been so much about choices lately, partly because my “glass wall” kept me occupied for a bit. 😉

But recently I noticed that there are so many things to choose in December – you could call it the month of choices, I guess. Everybody keeps asking each other: What will you do for Christmas? Stay home? Go somewhere? To see your family? To see the in-laws? Or will you go on holiday somewhere (skiing? looking for the sun?)? What are you going to eat (that seems to be a major point)? What type of tree? Real one, fake one? Candles? Electric lights? …. And so it goes on. Lots of questions, lots of choices to be made. It makes your head spin. No wonder so many people get stressed out before Christmas. (And I have not even had it about presents and sending Christmas cards!) Plus most children get a bit crazy too (I know mine do), which does not help much to keep the adults around them calm.

So this is what I choose to do, to keep my sanity and to preserve myself something of the magic atmosphere this time of the year always had when I was a child (and “stressed out” was a phrase I did not know):

This year we are not going anywhere. Not to the part of the family that lives 1200 km away, not to the part that is only separated from us by 400 km. We will stay home, just the four of us. We will have our own little Christmas without the need to manage diverse expectations. I won’t be spending hours in the kitchen, but instead think of something simple that still has a touch of special. We will do a nice table but won’t expect the kids to sit there too long.

How does Christmas look like in our family:  First of all, “Christmas” is starting with Christmas Eve, not with Christmas Day. On the 24th of December, the living room is roped off, forbidden territory for the boys. We have breakfast and lunch in their room, with them playing host, which they love to do. Because on the 24th of December (and not a day before), the Christmas tree is being decorated in secrecy by the “Christkind” (= “Christchild”), which can be imagined as a sort of angel. (Our oldest knows it is the parents that are doing it, but he still likes the secrecy about it.) In the late afternoon we go to a special family service at our church, with Christmas songs and all. When we come back, it will be dark, and the tension will be rising. The boys will listen for the tone of a little bell – and then the doors of the living room will be opened, the tree will be there, decorated, lights glowing, presents underneath (left by the Christkind). We will sing a song and then the boys will open their presents. There will be play and later dinner and more play, and eventually bed. They will wake up early the next day, but probably not as early as if they were still waiting for presents to be opened.

This is the type of Christmas I had as a child, and my husband’s family has similar traditions. Living in an international community made us learn about other types, and it is funny to see how the children juggle with the combined concepts of our Christkind and the British “Father Christmas”/the American “Santa”. They do not really mind and we decided they are all helping each other because there are so many children that otherwise it would be too much work.

One more thing about the Christmas tree: When I was a child our tree at home always had real candles, burning down peacefully (no trees where ever harmed or singed). When I met my husband I realised he was terrified by the concept, coming out of a family with electric lights. He thought I was being really dangerous, I thought electric lights were unromantic. So for the first years of our relationship, he put up with my pyromaniac ambitions and suffered silently while my candles burned down (always very peacefully).  But when we approached our first Christmas with a baby boy I had to admit that toddlers and shiny hot objects are not a good combination. So we switched to electric lights and stayed with them, even though now both boys are out of the toddler age. I still think real candles cannot be beaten concerning the perfect look (yes, I know, a burning Christmas tree is not a perfect look and it tends to incinerate the rest of the room almost instantly), but I have to admit that the electric ones have one advantage: you can switch them on whenever you like, whereas we only lit the real candles once, on Christmas Eve.

So these are our choices for December 2013: staying home with a real Christmas tree (fir) with a colourful mixture of bulbs and other objects, electric lights. Spending two weeks of holidays with each other, meeting some friends, hopefully spending some time outside (the weather here is not very Christmas-like at the moment…wet and mild and windy). Letting the year end in a restful, peaceful way. Looking forward to the next one.

Merry Christmas, everyone!