So, this is Christmas... and what have you done...? Well, John and Yoko, I think this Birdie's been an awfully good girl this year and plenty dang busy! Every year, right before Christmas, it's a mad dash for everyone to get their work done so they can take off for family visits and some well-deserved time off, and I think that's probably why it's always notably hectic. And it's been no different this year -- there was a lull, an odd moment of quiet, like being in the eye of the holiday storm right before Thanksgiving when I felt like I had a moment to enjoy the early decorations and festivities (you can see everything in the photo above - most of those were taken in November!), thanks to an over-eager retail industry. And maybe that was a blessing, having that early peek at Christmas, despite all our eyebrow-raising that it wasn't even December yet, and we were seeing decorated trees and boughs of holly decked upon all the halls by, say... October.

Which leads me to the most significant thing about this year's Christmas. A few weeks before, in the flurry of a frantic work week, I made what I consider to be a Jaunty Executive Decision. I said this year, there would be no decorating of a tree. (pause for dramatic gasp) Granted, our traditional tree is a fake one, I have it stored in our closet and a giant plastic bin full of ornaments. There's no digging around, searching for where stuff could be. It easily could have been dragged out like previous years, fussed-over, and once decorated and lit, I'd be full of holiday sentimental feelings, glad for the effort. They will remain dormant for the first time in many years, at least since we moved to our house and the ornaments full of childhood memories remain in darkness for this year. This sounds so sad! Are you feeling holiday depression? Is everything okay with family and home? That's what you're thinking. Heck, that's what I'm thinking. But in the busiest period of the pre-holiday chaos, I considered what really and truly matters during the holidays, and for all the beloved rituals we have, there is but one that I felt like I was missing this year -- the thorough enjoyment of the season. And as Mr. Magpie always says, as he sees me in my frantic, crazed moments of trying to jam a 30 hour day into a 24 hour time period, I need to let go. And so I decided this would be my gift to myself -- learning that it's not giving something up, but finding meaning beyond ritual.

I was cancelling social engagements left and right in lieu of work, missing out on things for the sake of deadlines and paying bills (still important, but it still sucked). I wasn't exactly Ebenezer Scrooge, but I was Scrooge-ing myself out of time with friends. A viewing of both Bill Murray's Scrooged and an 80s version of A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott made the old ghostly words of Jacob Marley ring in my head, about how every link of heavy chain one carries in the Afterlife was forged in this life, link by link, one regret at a time. This year in particular was dotted with notes of sadness; there were several losses in the Jaunty Circle of friends and family. While sad, they were reminders to take the time before it's stolen away. I saw friends combat illness and health issues -- more reminders that the decor of a home is empty without loved ones to fill it with joy. And so these Spirits of Christmas Past/Present/Future came to me in their own way, reminding me to not put the importance of holidays in object or self-imposed ritual, but in those around me. If it means giving up a Christmas tree in lieu of having a mind present and available to be with my loved ones, then so be it. And there are other Christmas holidays to come, my planning skills will be better, and even if they're not, this year will be proof that Christmas still comes to the Jaunty home, even without a tree. So this Birdy wishes you all a very Merry Christmas!!

Jaunty Fine Print:  design and photos by Denise Sakaki

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