December 08, 2008

In need of some christmas cheer

Oh great, it must be THAT time of the year again - someone in my family is dying. Last November my grandfather suddenly died. This year's it's my father's first wife who's in the hospital and, apparently, dying. She went in for an operation at the beginning of October, to have a tumor in her asophagus removed. Everything went absolutely fine and she would've recovered perfectly were she not anorexic. This woman has had an eating disorder for 25 years and is now down to about 27 kg. She's dying of frickin' undernourishment, or physical weakness or I don't know what. The doctors say it's a question of days.

Now my father's first wife - that's not exactly traditional family. But her and my mother have been friends for a very long time, and occasionally I'd have even considered her friends with my father. To me she's kind of an aunt, who used to look after me a lot whenever my parents were on business trips (which used to be quite frequently the case). As a kid I used to hate her of course, because my child's mind couldn't grasp the idea that my father used to be with someone other than my mom *gasp* :) I was a horrible brat to her, which in turn made her resentful towards me. But we learned to treat each other right over time and since then I've always considered her family. Her dying... it's not made any easier by the fact that her real relatives come directly from hell. Her sister already has an eye on her money (it's not that much and she's not that much in need of it, but that doesn't seem to stop her), constantly taking money out of her sister's account. While my mum and I were at the hospital yesterday this evil woman got my father to drive her to her dying sister's flat to get clothes to dress her in when she's dead! She's so "pragmatic" it makes me sick... She even talked to an undertaker already today. These are only some of the worst things she's doing. And we can't do anything about it, because we're not officially immediate family. It pisses me off...

However, this is the reason why I'm in dire need of some Christmas cheer in my life, so I got out all our Christmas decorations today, put on some Christmas music Finn had taken out because she's organizing a Christmas party at work. And then I went all out :) I decorated our living room cupboard with reindeers and baubles and the little silver stars Finn made for our first Christmas together 3 years ago. And of course there's the token chain of lights. On the window pane there's also a little pot I decorated last year with wonky but lovingly self-made candy canes and a reindeer sticking out of it.


I love Christmas. I always have, however dysfunctional it might be - in my and everyone else's family. Maybe that's because it's so close to my birthday (23rd) and that automatically makes it one big holiday for me. Or maybe it's because I have the fondest memories of my grandparents (Viennese and Hungarian together) taking me for a walk in the snow so the "Christkindl" could come and bring the presents (back then the Baby Jesus as a gift-giver was still more common than Santa Clause). I remember the empty and snowy streets of my district as completely peaceful. Almost everyone was at home, with the lights sneaking out of the windows into the streets. And whoever wasn't home yet, was just biding time like we were.

When we got home, noses red from the cold the door to the living room was closed and I waited anxiously for the sound of the bell which the Christkindl would ring once it was done laying out the presents. And I'd barge into the room torn between the flickering candlelight and the neatly wrapped presents beneath it. I had to sing through a whole round of Christmas songs and play some on my recorder. When I was older I'd accompany the singing on the piano and even later I'd play some music on my bassoon with my mum accompanying me on the piano. Then, and only then would I finally get to open my presents. I loved that model railway (no, wait, I had actually gotten that the day before for my birthday). There were matchbox cars and other toys, and always many many books that would barely last me for the holidays.

Today Christmas has become much more about giving for me. I love the christmas calendar I made for Finn this year simply because she loves opening the little presents. I love giving self-made foodstuffs to family, knowing they'll be eating something that I put a lot of effort into. I love how my mum "oooh"ed and "aaaah"ed about my homemade slow food pesto (no food processor came near that!) and how Finn's dad's eyes lit up when he reached into the jar with the homemade toffees or sipped the eggnogg I'd bottled only a day ago. This year I'm making mozzarella (ok, I'll try making mozzarella) and a chocolate spread (nutella style) and some rucola pesto. I love searching for my newest gift-ideas or experimenting to find out the perfect nut-rucola combination...

These days, as I'm reading so many english-written cook blogs and cook books, Christmas has probably also become more American around our own flat. A chain of lights would have been out of the question back when - still is today for my parents I think -, but I just love how it softly lights up my room, making it homely and just a tiny bit festive - with only a fireplace missing. I have to keep myself from putting the decorations up too early - that's how much I love Christmas. Since I never especially liked any of the german language songs my Christmas music has become strictly American/English too.

Now, in memory of the for now sadly dormant Soundcafe I give you my Top 7 Favourite Christmas Songs

1. Hard Candy Christmas (Dolly Parton)
2. All I want for Christmas (Olivia Olson from the Love Actually soundtrack)
3. The Christmas Song (Chestnuts roasting on an open fire)
4. White Christmas
5. The first noel
6. I'll be home for Christmas
7. Santa Baby

On the 24th Finn and I will have a lazy morning and a lavish breakfast accompanied by the movie Love Actually. Love Actually is my favourite Christmas movie so I've turned it into a tradition that we watch it on Christmas day. And then I won't mind however the evening goes or where we'll spend it (my parents / her's / driving from one to the other like crazy).


Rebecca said...

Your Christmas food-gifts sound AMAZING. Perfect gifts. I'm way sorry about your dad's first wife - that's terrible news. A big dose of Love Actually is definitely in order. And the lights look great! There's nothing as cozy and magical as Christmas lights.

LG said...

Your place looks much cheerier than mine - maybe that's why I have no Christmas spirit?

I'm with Rebecca ... your food gifts made me HUNGRY this morning. I think anything made by hand or with love is the absolute best, with some partiality to that toffee.

I think Christmas is mostly about being around the people you love, so there's that. And yes, watching Love Actually. So I think you've got the thing down pat.