Contemplating what it means to ‘celebrate’ the holidays

Written by Katy Nesbitt, The Observer January 02, 2013 09:31 am

Sometimes my rigid, literal mind blocks the essence of what people say and for that, I apologize. 

On my way to Portland to spend the last week of the year with my parents I was asked, “Do you celebrate the holiday?” I was fairly thrown off, mulling over the words “celebrate” and “holiday” when I should have just smiled and nodded.

It was Christmas Eve and most people, friends and strangers, merely say, “Merry Christmas” along about this time of year. I stupidly stammered something about heading to my parents’ house, and the kind, young woman said, “That will be fun.”

Suddenly, I was hung up on the word “fun.” Fun? Alas. Sure, we’ll go to midnight mass and awake for breakfast and then at dinner time, well, we’ll have dinner. We didn’t have any roller-coaster rides or jet boat skis planned, just a day avoiding the soaking, western Oregon rain and maybe a obligatory viewing of “A Christmas Story.”

Does celebrating mean going for a walk to the park for the thousandth time? Does fun mean unloading the dishes and making the first pot of coffee while listening to the news on Christmas morning?

Where else can I go, but my parents’ house and have no one argue with me when I want to do the dishes? 

One Christmas Eve I “celebrated the holiday” by waiting for four hours at Les Schwab to get studded tires on my parents’ car in the middle of an ice storm. Another time I had “fun” shoveling out their driveway on Christmas morning.

This week my cousin died as well as the cousin of a Wallowa County friend. These days, many services surrounding death are called “celebrations” as opposed to funerals or memorial services. Not only have these gatherings had a name change, but a real change in emphasis to celebrate a person’s life and focus on the light they brought into our lives.

I used to attend a meditation group and our small, fringe group got to be close friends, despite the fact that a lot of the time spent together was in silence. One night after we met the question was posed, “What would you do if you only had a year to live?” My immediate answer was, what I’m doing now.

Of course if that was the case I would spend as much time feasible with my family and friends, cherish every sunrise and snuggle the dogs throughout the day. I’d go for long walks and take pictures of the wonders around me — from amusing bumper stickers to snow-covered peaks to herds of expectant cows mooing for their breakfast.

But I already do those things.

Sure, I have some bucket-list items and feel some pressure to travel to foreign lands and ski bumps with my nephew, there are books I want to write and others I would like to read, but for the most part, I am content, at my year-end reflection.

As for 2013? I am formulating resolutions that I may drop by the end of January like 45 percent of Americans.