Thanksgiving is over. The leftovers are stored. The leaves from the dining room table leaves have been removed and relegated to attic storage. The excess calories are hopefully burning off.
Onto the "Holiday Season" in earnest. Oh boy. More stress.
Let's face it. Everybody has a right side of the brain -- and we need it desperately during the gift-giving period. The right side of our brain houses our imaginative, intuitive and artistic bad-ass side. And we need to harness its power to bring forth and incorporate new rituals into our holiday activities. And to quide us toward buying gifts that will please and add value and worth. Both actions have the potential to bring immense pleasure to all concerned.
The Random House Dictionary of the English Language defines ritual as "an established or prescribed procedure."
Many people have particular foods that they habitually make during the holiday season. My friend, Cheryl, says she knows this is "very ordinary, perhaps, "but isn't that what a ritualistic tradition is ... a consistent, dependable, enjoyable way of doing things, year after year?"
My mother makes white chocolate covered Rice Chex, which she packages in small bags and gives as a take-home gift to each family member. Here's the Recipe for White Chocolate Covered Rice Chex:
I box (1 lb.) Rice Chex cereal
2 pkgs. (1 Lb. each) white chocolate
Melt half of chocolate and pour over half of cereal in a large bowl. Mix with a spoon and shake bowl until the cereal is well coated.
Set aside to cool. Stir periodically to keep cereal from clumping.
Repeat melting and coating process with remaining half of cereal and white chocolate.
Cool completely. Store in plastic bags. Can be frozen.
Too daunting? Here are a few other ideas for those of us who are culinary challenged but want to bestow meaningful gifts:
Give each family member a camera or cell phone and instruct them to take pictures over the holidays of moments special to them. Depending on age, help may be needed. Then grab the most tech savvy relative and cajole him or her into making an online collage and emailing to all when completed. Approaching when he or she is relaxed (i.e. inebriated) may be less hazardous to your safety.
Give each child a set amount of money and an addressed and stamped postcard. Instruct them to research a charity to give their money to and donate it. Then said child writes a sentence of two about the experience and sends it to a designated person, who will keep track of responses and send out a wrap-up email.
One family member each year should be responsible for planning an outing or an activity during the holiday season. My neighbor arranged for a palmist to come and read each family member's palm. How about Tarot card reading, handwriting analysis, or astrology charts? One friend, Gitty, planned a bowling outing and provided vintage bowling shirts to each family member to wear.
An old college roommate of mine keeps a "Thankfulness" folder and all year collects quotes that have stirred her. During the holiday season, instead of a holiday letter, she compiles all of them into a small notebook, which she tucks inside a mason jar and passes out in a jar to each family member on her list. Her goal: to inspire and connect. And instill transparency. (Glass jar in case you missed that point.)
If you are shopping at your local bookstore for gifts, make it a point to double whammy the retail deal: buy a book from a local author. Or visit art fairs, street markets, and owner-operated neighborhood boutiques and buy from your local craftspeople and merchants, too.
And be ever alert for gift buying ideas. I caught the tail end of an NPR segment on the way to the bank. I quickly jotted down the phrase "Pandemic Legacy." When I got home, I researched it and found out it is a cutting-edge game for those age 13 and above. Want to engender world awareness and global responsibility and stimulate your brain cells at the same time? This game will do it. Starting with what reviewers describe as one of the worst years in human history, players must band together to save the world. Actions taken in one game will affect all future games and determine whether you can save humanity.
I was half-listening to "CBS in the Morning" a few weeks ago. Delia Ephron, sister to the late Nora Ephron, was the featured guest. She talked about picking up her 8-year-old nephew from the airport and the first thing out of his mouth was, "Take me to the baseball card store, Aunt Delia." A demand. And not a subtle one. Ephron was appalled and began that day in the car to write a question and answer etiquette book for kids -- to teach and instill kind, respectful and decent behavior. The title is Do I Have to Say A Hello? and deals with sticky questions such as "What happens when I get a present I don't like?"
I immediately bought two copies. One for each set of grandchildren. Not because my darlings are disrespectful. Not because they are impolite, greedy or unkind. I bought it because I plan to sit beside them on the floor and ask them the questions and listen to them probably pick the silliest (and wrong) answer. We will have fun, while I hope they instinctively will pick up on the right answers, too.
BTW, the "CBS in the Morning Crew" recommends this book for adults too. It would make a great stocking stuffer.