Saturday, December 14, 2013

Let all mortal flesh keep silent (that means no presents)

Unrelated to the rest of this post: This is a calming and beautiful film. The snow is falling heavily this morning and I curled up with my blanket and hot cocoa to watch monks use antiquated tools.

On a less monastic note, I am so going to make these Parmesan Shortbread Cookies for people after Christmas. I LOVE savory cookies (like Mark Bittman's Olive Oil Cookies,) and now that I'm just not into sugar anyway (a healthy side effect of being pregnant.) And duh, shortbread should have cheese in it.

I like the idea of making some savory cookies for gifts after Christmas because:

1. I won't be on break until a couple of days before Christmas, and this year I refuse to do any Christmas preparation until I'm on break.
2. Everyone will be tired of puppy chow and fudge and chocolate covered pretzels and colored-sugar cookies and a treat with no sugar might hit the spot. Plus, after Christmas Orthodox friends won't have to choose between letting the cookies get stale and breaking the fast for a recipe with 7 tablespoons of butter.
3. Isn't it so much nicer to celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas than the month and a half of Christmas? Not trying to be a triumphal "wetback" Orthodox here but dang, we just do it better. Or in our convert church's case, dang, we're learning to do it better.

My family (parents, siblings, Matt and I) have decided not to give Christmas presents this year. Well, of course we can't get away with ZERO gifts, so we're all just contributing one or oh okay maybe two things to each person's stocking. I am so relieved. I hate Christmas shopping. I don't care about presents that much either. If everyone was genuinely creative and thoughtful (which nobody has time for, including me) and gave something really touching and meaningful, that would be great. But gift exchanges (in my family, at least) too often become "What do you want? Okay, I'll go get that." On the one hand, it's nice to give and get exactly what's desired, but on the other hand, it's just a little crass. It reminds me of a comic I once saw about Christmas when you're in your thirties with no children-- Here's your Christmas present. I didn't wrap it because you were with me at the store when I bought it for you.

I always think of the Christmas in Little House on the Prairie, when the girls were so excited to each get one orange, a peppermint stick, and their own little tin cup. Or the Christmas in Little Women, when the March girls took their Christmas dinner to the poor German family. Compare that to my Christmases growing up, when we lusted after our presents for several weeks beforehand, and ripped off the wrapping paper so greedily. The rest of the day just seemed like a let down after that, even if we enjoyed our toys. That's covetousness for you.

So I am excited to see what Christmas is like with only stockings. I can't say what I'm putting in my siblings' stockings because I think my brother reads my blog. It suffices to say that Matt and I finished our Christmas shopping in about 20 minutes and spent more time and about the same amount of money eating sushi afterwards than we did shopping. (Christmas spirit? Maybe not.)

I realize we haven't actually experienced this gift-less Christmas yet, but I'm already imagining Christmas without presents for our children. With all that extra time, money, and energy that we've saved not buying gifts, we'll prepare the house with more crafty decorations. On Christmas Day we'll go to Liturgy, come home and have a nice Break Fast casserole, maybe open stockings, play games, and sing Christmas carols that we haven't sung all month. In general, I just want the focus to be on traditions more meaningful than exchanging gifts, which becomes so easily becomes the desideratum for children. They're not angels.

Matt will be on his mail route all day, as he always is on Saturday. My plan for the day is to listen to this podcast called "The Good Wife," which many of my friends are raving about, while either knitting a hat for my dad or gluing the linen to my icon board (the fibers will help the gesso adhere to the board later.) I've got some lamb bone broth bubbling (sorry everybody) and it smells great. I should go out to my parents' to do some laundry, clip some winter greenery and hang out with my sisters but it's snowing pretty hard and I just might not make it out of my pajamas until Vespers, if ever.


  1. So, I listed to about 45 minutes of the podcast. It seemed to come down to "Men are idiots. Your job as a wife is to put up with his idiocy. He will come around, and be saved".

    If that's what marriage is, I want nothing of it.

  2. Yeah, I was not expecting that! It seems like that's good advice for the extreme case of a husband who is totally dumb and doesn't listen to reason or care about your well-being at all, but what about... talking about things, with your rational and caring husband? I get the obedience thing, if that's what you want to call it-- I try not to do things that he doesn't want me to do. But he does the same for me.

    In general I need to keep my mouth shut more often (not just with my husband,) but it would take a lot of grace to do this all the time to the extent that Fr. Josiah prescribes. I can see it resulting in many hours of bitter silence.

    But I think I will purchase the rest of the podcasts... IF MY HUSBAND LETS ME. Maybe Fr. Josiah will have some other good stuff in the four hours of talking. I will let you know.