Monday, December 24, 2007

Best Holiday Wishes

There is something different about this Christmas for me. And it's more than just a different year in a different place -- or maybe it's less. I made an effort to simplify things this year, and it seems that a lot of people in my life did the same. I remember something my mother said to me last year after participating in the traditional holiday rush to the mall. She said, "It just leaves you feeling empty."

I'm not sure if everyone has felt that way, but in the past, I have. There's something about rushing through the process of giving that somehow cheapens it. So this year, quite a few people that they didn't really "need" me to get them anything for the holidays. "Donate to charity," some said. Or, "getting to spend time with family is enough."

I sense a trend, at least in my own sphere of relationships, toward a simplified, more intimate and slower way of carrying out our traditions. I realized, as I was making an oil painting for my niece instead of buying her a plastic toy, that it takes more time to do it this way, and maybe that's why it doesn't seem to be the norm. But it was also more relaxing and left me feeling full instead of empty.

We're not abandoning our traditions, just tweaking them. We still brought a Christmas tree inside, but this year, we decided to buy a live tree. We could have headed out to a local nursery to pick one up, but I found a very cool service here in Portland called The Original Living Christmas Tree Company ( and they deliver live Christmas trees two weeks before Christmas and then pick them up on New Year's Day, to be delivered to a local company or regional park at a discount.

We didn't have any Christmas ornaments, so we made our own out of three or four scratched CDs and DVDs that would have otherwise gone to the garbage can. (I'm especially proud of the star.) We didn't have lights for the tree, so we purchased some LEDs from a hardware store just down the block. It's great to see LEDs coming into the mainstream. It's true that they're more expensive than incandescents, but the string we purchased will last for 20 years or more, the bulbs are unbreakable and the energy savings will pay for the string over time. They are 98 percent more efficient than traditional lights. What would cost $100 in electricity at average rates with traditional incandescents, will cost $1.83 with LEDs. I'm really looking forward to the day when the residential lighting aisle's have just as many LED options.

So yes, the tree is smaller than most and there aren't as many gifts underneath it, but the simplicity feels damn good. There aren't any lights on the outside of the house to spread holiday cheer, but I've had enough time to smile at people on the street, and that seems to be working just as well.

May the season find you happy and healthy and in the best of company, surrounded by warmth and light.

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