"The last of human freedoms - the ability to choose one's attitude in a given set of circumstances."
-Viktor E. Frankl
THE FIRST FAUX CHRISTMAS
Faux Christmas came about in 2013 but was in the making for years before that. I guess to understand, you have to hear at least a condensed version of the whole saga.
It really all started with a divorce. After being a “unified” body for 29 years, our family became a fractured fairy tale at Thanksgiving time 2007. I won’t bore you with all the details as at this point, none of them much matter - but that wasn’t the case in 2007 because the details had left me a wreck. I was a wreck’s wreck! Knowing a wreck when I see one, I sought help. I was not going to live a bitter life. (At least not forever!) More than that, I wasn’t going to be a bitter mother. I had six wonderful children who deserved so much more from me.
For all of those 29 years, wonderful Christmases were a huge part of our family tradition. They were the pinnacle of togetherness. Everyone, even those grown and married with children of their own, tried hard to be home for Christmas. Now home didn't seem like a place that even existed anymore, much less a place anyone would want to try hard to be. I pained over how to make our first splintered Christmas a joyful time. It seemed hopeless and just sad. Any attempt to pull it off seemed akin to rearranging the furniture and living like nothing had happened in a home where a tornado had ripped off the whole back side of the house. How on earth could I possibly create "the magic" with the pain still so thick it was hard for us to see even each other through it?
When I brought this up with my counselor, she insisted that it couldn’t be done. Even trying, she said, would be an emotional disaster for everyone involved. She suggested doing something completely different - something that bore no resemblance to what everyone had come to expect - something so radical that it wouldn't feel like the old Christmases (with something missing) but instead would be a fresh event all its own.
A plot was hatched. It was so far removed from the traditional “family dinner” at home on Christmas day, that no one could possible mistake it for the same thing only very sadly different. We were heading for the casino buffet!
Just the idea seemed so wrong that it had to be perfect - and it was. It was so great in fact that those who attended voted to keep it as a permanent tradition. So, from 2007-2011 those who could make it home for Christmas Day stuffed themselves silly on a fantastic feast that included a myriad of ethnic features blended beautifully with all the traditional offerings they’d come to expect AND included all you can eat crab legs!
The only time any casino ever loses, is when my family shows up for all you can eat crab legs. Tray after tray of empty shells are carried away from our table and watching them pile up again and again was sheer joy.
Then the unthinkable happened! In 2012, we (including my new husband David,) arrived at the casino on Christmas Day, fully expecting to put crabs on the endangered species list, only to be sadly let down.The casino had decided (probably in part because of my family) to remove crab legs from the Christmas buffet and only to offer them on Saturday nights. We still had a great time that year, but it was not the same.
2013 another year of evolution. Our daughter in law is a pharmacist. As such, she works long and hard hours that often include holidays. She gets left out of a lot of fun as a result. Pair that with crab leg denial and something had to be done to right the wrongs that were again threatening to ruin our Christmas celebration.
Talking to my son about the previous year’s crab-indignity, we came up with a new plan - that if adopted could make everything right with the world again. What if we celebrate Christmas the SATURDAY before Christmas? Not only would that allow our daughter-in-law to join us but it would also give everyone a breather from all the obligatory madness that comes from jockeying schedules around a divorce and new in-laws. Just as importantly, it would put crab legs back on the table - literally! All concerned parties were contacted and the proposal was ratified without dissension. Enter FAUX CHRISTMAS.
Faux Christmas turned out to be one of my favorite Christmases yet. We were able to enjoy a relaxed weekend without the stress of needing to rush somewhere else. The casino buffet was nearly empty as others were saving up for the Christmas Day feast - and I didn’t have to feel sheepish for being the cause of others working and not spending time with their own families on what to me is a sacred holiday just so that my family could gorge.
A new tradition was born. Faux Christmas is the new order of things. Anyone who can make it the Saturday before Christmas joins in for the festivities. Unconventional? Yes, but after all, joy is where, when, and what you make it or observe it to be. I celebrate everyday the events that are the cause for the Christmas season. The observance is just a technicality.
Another benefit afforded us from our new tradition is that by the time "actual" Christmas day rolls around, the frenzy of activity has settled into a wonderful peacefulness with plenty of time for reflection on the day's true meaning and the implications of those events in my own life.
So every year on Sunday, the week before Christmas, the sea is a bit roomier for lack of crab and my heart is full to over flowing with the love and joy that is Christmas and family.
I also learned a powerful lesson along the way. Circumstances do not create happiness and can only create temporary sadness. Our determination to overcome our circumstances makes us not only more creative but ultimately more resilient. It's my Christmas prayer that you too will find ways to "survive and thrive" this holiday season and all through the coming year - regardless of what circumstances may bring.