Silent Wednesday

Today is Christmas Day.  All around the world, people are celebrating.  Some people are not celebrating.  All I really wish for this Christmas is that everyone who is lost or lonely or sad or angry or hungry or thirsty or cold or ill… or is suffering in any way… will experience some flicker of the Light that is the Christmas miracle.  I don’t know why some people are so broken and bruised and others seem to have an easier time, but I do know that no one is completely unscathed in life.  We all need something…. And we all have something to give. And sometimes what we need is to give. 

I’ve spent a lot of time this season talking about holiday traditions and my own somewhat kooky ho-ho-hoing.  Today, I’m going to let Christmas just be a Silent Night… and a silent morning and a silent afternoon and a silent evening.     It is more important that you pay attention to what is in your heart today than what is in mine. 

Blessed Christmas to all!  May you find peace, love, and joy in your sacred silence. 

My warmest wishes and prayers to all of you this Christmas Day!  May you be blessed with faith, hope, and love at Christmas and always.  Please feel free to leave a comment, sharing your Christmas wishes. 

Merry Christmas!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Christ-más Traditions

Most of us have heard the slogans “Jesus Is The Reason For The Season” and “put Christ In Christmas.” I first heard them as a child, so they have been around for quite some time. I thought they were snappy reminders that Christmas is more than Santa Claus and eight tiny reindeer.  After all, Clement Moore did not invent Christmas; God did.  And Christmas is just one chapter in the wonderful story of God’s love for us.

I don’t want to dismiss the merry moments that we enjoy as part of our ho-ho-holidays. Most of us cherish memories of family traditions and secularized celebrations of Christmases past.  We also cherish the beauty and mystery of the Nativity- the unimaginable wonder of the birth of a Savior who would bring an eternal Light to a World suffering in darkness.  We understand that the true meaning of Christmas fills the heart with way more warmth than the most sentimental Hallmark Christmas movie.  We understand that the true meaning of Christmas is a more miraculous gift than the most elaborately wrapped Christmas present.  We understand that the true meaning of Christmas is about more pure Joy than the shiniest Christmas tree can provide.  We know that Jesus is the reason for the season, and we put Christ in Christmas. 

I still don’t want to give up my secular Christmas traditions.  It is fun to decorate for Christmas. I get giddy about hunting for my elf on the shelf.  I disregard my regrettable lack of musical talent when I go Christmas caroling. I love dedicating some special festive time with friends and family, allowing overwhelming waves of affection and gratitude to wash over me.  I enjoy giving and receiving presents. I willed myself into believing in Santa Claus until I was eleven years old, so it is unlikely that I will kick him to the curb at this late date.   

I think we can center Christmas on Christ and still enjoy favorite secular traditions.  In fact, I think we can enjoy those secular traditions even more by making them Christ-más (more Christ) traditions.  With a few simple hacks, we can enrich some of our more familiar secular traditions with fortified Christmas spirit. 

For instance, it is easy to add the true meaning of Christmas to our holiday decorating.  There are all kinds of beautiful Nativity decorations.  Also, some families make a Jesse tree early in Advent.  A Jesse tree is named after the reference in Isaiah 11:10 which indicates that the Savior will spring from the root of Jesse.  The tree is usually leafless and scraggly looking, much like a tree in the desert battling against the harsh earthly elements and holding on to life only by a strong root.  It is decorated with ornaments that tell the story of salvation.  The ornaments may include symbols from the Old Testament, like Joseph’s coat and Noah’s ark, as well as ornaments depicting important events in the life of Jesus, such as the Star of Bethlehem, the dove, and the cross. 

If a family likes their elf-hunting or opening boxes on an Advent calendar to reveal candies or toys, it might be a good idea to incorporate other “readiness” activities during Advent. Some Advent calendars reveal Scripture quotes or part of the Nativity story each day rather than candy or toys.  In my case, I have an advent wreath.  Each night, I light the weekly number of candles and read a devotion.  The time leading up to Christmas is about building excitement and getting ready to welcome our Savior.  There is nothing wrong with hunting for elves on the shelves, but why not also spend some time exciting the soul, as well?

There are many Christmas carols that focus on the birth of Jesus.  I think we are sometimes a bit tentative about those songs, as if we might offend people who are not believers.  I guess it is good to be sensitive, but that doesn’t mean we should keep our love of Christ hidden.  I remember caroling one year when we visited a house where a Jewish man lived.  We were somewhat reluctant to sing Christmas songs because he didn’t celebrate Christmas.  We went ahead and I was so glad we did because he was so touched.  He even thanked us for generously sharing our joy and tradition with him.

Spending time with family and friends at Christmas is wonderful.  There are plenty of people who don’t get to share Christmas with loved ones.  We can celebrate Christ-más by enlarging our family circle to include an outsider.  Hospitality is a gift of the Holy Spirit and love is always meant to be given away.  Giving love away to people who are not in our immediate network of friends and family can make our Christmas more joyous and more Christlike. 

There is nothing wrong with presents, either.  I love shopping to find just the right gift for people and I enjoy the surprise of opening a package addressed to me.  I do think it is valuable to add one more gift under the tree, though.  You can wrap up a check to your church or organization that provides comfort to the suffering in the world and open it on Christmas Day to remind you that being able to give to others is a wonderful gift in itself. 

Then, there is Santa Claus.  I’ve always loved the rendition of Santa Claus kneeling, hat in hand, before the Baby Jesus.  It reminds me that Jesus, not Santa, is truly the Spirit of Christmas.  This year, I think Santa is going to bring Scripture cards to stuff in the stockings, in addition to the ubiquitous sugar plums. 

This year let’s take “Keep Christ in Christmas” to the next level.  Let’s infuse our secular holiday with Christ-más

Merry Nativity, everyone!

Precious Lord,

Thank you for all Your many blessings.  Help us to keep You at the center of our Christmas celebrations and the center of our lives.  The only gift we simply must have this Christmas is Your love in our lives.  Come into our lives and share Your light with us.  May we bear that Light to the world, to the glory of Your name.

In Jesus’ name, we pray.  Amen

Your turn… what Christmas traditions do you observe? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a joyful day!

Terri/Dorry

Second Christmas

I woke up this morning with a heart so heavy it felt like it was dangling lethargically somewhere in the vicinity of my left kidney.

Everyone says that the first year after losing a loved one is the hardest. I can certainly understand that. All through the tail end of 2017 and 2018, the “firsts” bombarded me. I experienced my first birthday without my mother. I experienced my first Christmas holiday season without my mother. I experienced my first Mother’s Day without my mother. I experienced August 22, which was my mother’s birthday, for the first time without her. I experienced the first anniversary of her death.

In addition, there were many challenging activities related to her death that I had to plow my way through in that first year. I told friends and relatives of her passing. I arranged for her cremation. I packed up her personal items from the nursing facility. I scattered her ashes. I applied for life insurance proceeds. I closed out her affairs.

Now that I am in the second year of orphanhood, I expected life to get a little easier to bear. For the most part, I think it has. It has been a year filled with a certain harshness that has been hard to overlook. On the other hand, it has been a year of great satisfaction in some ways. I’ll be writing more about that next week.

However, the Christmas season this year has been much harder on my psyche than I thought it would be. At first, the sadness surprised me, but I came to realize it makes perfect sense.

Last Christmas, I expected to miss my mother bitterly. I knew I would feel bereft and broken. In a world where most people love Christmas, my mother was a uniquely committed Yule-a-phile. She never met a Christmas decoration she didn’t like. She purchased truckloads of presents. She gathered her family to her heart like toys in Santa’s sleigh and draped us with holly. She let her wacky side run wild, embracing oddball traditions and creating serendipitous surprises.

People who know me would say that description sounds a lot like me. Trust me, the angel doesn’t fall far from the Christmas tree. I am only a faded carbon copy of my mother and her addiction to all things ho-ho-holiday.

Strangely, I floated through the holiday season last year without unbearable pain. There certainly were times when I was sad, but, for the most part, I managed well. I was easy on myself, anticipated moments of grief, and allowed my Christmas season to be gentler and more peaceful than usual. I cocooned myself in the warmth of that gentleness and enjoyed that kind of Christmas. It wasn’t that I tried to avoid celebrating Christmas because the whole holiday thing reminded me too much of my loss. I just settled into enjoying simplicity and doing whatever felt appealing in the moment.

Last year, my mother’s death was still so fresh. I felt shell shocked. I was processing my grief through a veil of relief that my mother wasn’t suffering anymore and that the job of accompanying her as she died little by little was finally done. I think my psyche was more wrapped up in the close of that painful chapter than in the close of the entire book of my mother’s life. I was so glad to turn the page that I didn’t fully experience the sinister finality of slamming of the book’s cover.

This year, the finality of the loss has had time to resurface in my brain. I am no longer as vague and relieved as I was last year. I just miss my mom being with me and doing the things we used to do. As a result, this holiday season has felt much sadder. And I think that is a good thing.

One of my biggest fears when my mother was ill was that all the difficult times and suffering were overlaying the lifetime of joyful memories I had with my mother. I felt like I was not only losing my mother in death, but that I was losing who she had always been in life because I could no longer fully experience the joyful memories. If you’d like to read more about that fear, you can visit my blog post I Miss My Momma. You can access that post by clicking this link:

I Miss My Momma

I think my sadness in this holiday season has to do with the joyful memories returning to take their rightful place in my mind and heart. You can’t miss what you don’t know, right? I think the fact that I am sad that my mother isn’t here to “do Christmas” with me means that I am remembering and cherishing the times we had when we were together. I’m okay with that. There is nothing that can change the fact that my mother died. There is nothing that can change the fact that most everyone will go through the death of one or more parents in their life. There is nothing that can change the fact that it is sad when we miss the people we love. Since there is nothing we can do to change any of that, I’d much rather be sad sometimes than forgo the joy of remembering and re-experiencing the happy times!

To all of you are experiencing loss this Christmas, may you be blessed with peace, hope, and joy.  That is what Christmas really means.  In a Christian perspective, it is about the beginning of our redemption by Jesus.  In a secular perspective, it is about allowing the warmth and love of this world to fill your heart and comfort you.  Please allow my warmth and love for you travel through cyberspace to fill your heart and comfort you.

 

Terri/Dorry 🙂

 

 

A Corny (But Heartfelt) Christmas Poem

C is for the Christ Child who came to bring us Light,

To lead us to eternal joy in His mercy and His might.

H is for the holly hanging on the walls

Green and red festooning, decking all the halls.

R is for reindeer that bring Santa’s sleigh,

Hauling all the presents that we open Christmas Day.

I is for icicles on the tree’s limbs

Sparkling even when all the light dims.

S is for Santa who brings treats and toys

To delight all good little girls and boys.

T is for trimming- trees, gifts, or halls

With tinsel and garland and bright Christmas balls.

M is for mistletoe and kisses we steal

With love and affection and special Yule zeal.

A is for angel on top of the tree,

Glittering, sparkling… as bright as can be.

S is for salvation-  Christ’s mission on earth.

The way to the cross began on the day of His birth.

 

Christmas is a big concept.  I think there is plenty of room in Christmas for secular tradition and festivity.  I enjoy the ho ho ho and the fa la la.  For me, though, Christmas begins and ends with Jesus.

Have a happy and holy Christmas!  Yuletide blessings to you and yours.

Merry Christmas!  Please join my cyberspace Christmas party.  Feel free to leave a comment to share your Christmas good wishes and memories.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  Oh, and by the way, please help yourself to some virtual gingerbread!!!!

Terri :-0  Holy Night!

 

Christmas Can Be Hazardous To Your Health

Don’t get me wrong.  I love Christmas.  I also love grizzly bears, but I don’t necessarily think it is safe to engage with them.

There are numerous holiday-related injuries that can detract from the fun and frivolity of the Christmas season.  I’m going to mention a few of them so you can be on the lookout, if you insist on tempting fate and celebrating a holly jolly season this year.

The other day, I was innocently decorating my Christmas trees (yes, I do have more than one… what’s it to ya?) and happened to look down.  There was a stream of blood running down my arm, apparently the result of some tree assembly mishap.  I’m not sure how it happened.  My trees are not huge.  In fact, it occurred to me that, even if one of them should come tumbling down directly on my head, they did not weigh enough to render me concussed.  Still, I somehow managed to stab myself with fake pine needles and break the skin.  You’ll be happy to know I avoided stitches.  I did, however, need a band-aid.

I threw several strings of battery-operated lights around the holly trees in front of my house.  I wasn’t interested in appearing on The Great Christmas Light Fight or anything.  I just didn’t want to be the only neighbor without holiday illumination. Since I didn’t really care how the lights looked, it was not necessary to balance on a ladder.  I’ve seen a lot of people in the community perching precariously on ladders, stapling lights to their roofs.  I’m sorry, but I think if you live in an over-55 community, you are just tempting fate the minute you step on a ladder.  The lights in my holly trees are battery-operated and have timers, so I am now free to ignore them until it is time to put them away in January.  I do have two faceted green disco-ball kind of things that project moving green polka dots onto the face of the house.  These, alas, have neither batteries or timers.  I had to get extension cords, which seemed relatively hazard-free.  However, every evening I have to plug the lights in and unplug them when I go to bed.  Max is certain that I will be attacked by lizards, frogs, and snakes when I prowl around the yard unplugging cords.

I also think I may have developed a tinsel allergy at some point.  Every time I’ve decorated a tree in the past few years, I’ve ended up with a cold or other respiratory ailment of some such ilk.  I end up spending several days sneezing and coughing and feeling like I’ve swallowed spiders.  I mentioned this to a friend of mine who reported that just about everyone has that reaction.  She said she thought it was from the dust that collects on the Christmas tree and decorations while they languish in the garage from January until November.  That may sound reasonable to some of you, but I believe it is more nefarious and personal than that.  I’ve decided that I must be allergic to sparkle.  Unless I’m allergic to Christmas in general.  I’m not willing to go that far, however.

There are also the health issues surrounding the consumption of special holiday treats.  We’ve all heard horror stories of people who have ended up in the emergency room with food poisoning on Christmas because somebody thought cooking a turkey overnight at 150 degrees was a great idea.  I personally know several people who have been injured when falling fruitcake hit their feet.  Just saying.  Then there is my own personal vulnerability.  People who jog can get shin splints.  People who play tennis can get tennis elbow.  People who eat gingerbread as a hobby are susceptible to ginger-pudge.  This is a serious condition that causes a thickened waist and a pair of bloated hips.  Yes, it is only a season disorder, but its effects can be cumulative year after year.

Yes, Christmas can be dangerous.  Maybe we should avoid seasonal celebration the way we avoid smoking, drinking, extreme sports, and taking toddlers on long airplane trips.

But then…. there is the Christmas Star that brings Light to the World.  There is the good news of salvation.  There is the joyful promise of peace on earth and goodwill to all.

Forget what I said.  Some dangers are worth the risk.  We need a little Christmas!

Have you ever suffered any Christmas-related injuries?  Do tell.  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Have an injury-free day!

Terri:-)

Ho, Ho, Whoa? No.

Some people have been complaining about Christmas creep for years. They object to the subliminal messages compelling us to be merry, freewheeling, and free spending that assault society earlier every year.  I am not one of those people.

I love Christmas. Many people who deal with loss and grief find the holidays particularly difficult.  I tend to take the opposite tact.  In the past, when my life was crumbling and my spirits were low, I seemed to be able to take a break from my sadness to focus on Christmas activities.  The sacred and secular Christmas joys gave me permission to lay my burdens aside and rest from my struggle. It was something like the famous Christmas truce in World War I.  For a brief, blessed time, I could call a ceasefire in my war with my own emotions.  The truce might only last long enough to sing Silent Night, but it has always been enough to heal a few cracks in my heart.

This year, with my mind buzzing with busy-ness and unquenchable desire for distraction since my mother’s death, I am finding the Christmas truce even more soothing than usual.  It isn’t that I don’t miss my mother.  My heart still dips down to my ankles, scrambling my stomach on its way, when I hit the sudden patches of sad turbulence that anyone who has experienced a loss understands.  Still, Christmas activities help me keep my balance when I hit those patches.

I get the concern, though.  Folks begin to suspect that the extended subliminal marketing of Christmas shifts the emphasis away from the holiday’s true meaning and specialness. When you start to panic about not being done with your Christmas shopping in October, it isn’t a good thing.  When you realize that you have been humming “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” along with the elevator music in October, you may start to feel a little manipulated.  When you can no longer buy Christmas wrapping paper at Costco in November because they started selling it in August and ran out by the end of September, it can take a little holly out of your jolly.

On the other hand, the Christmas season does provide more opportunities for people to spread a little goodwill.  Of course, it is possible and desirable for people to give to charity, cherish their loved ones, and embrace kindness throughout the whole year.  Sometimes, though, our day-to-day hustle and bustle takes our focus away from the loving way we truly want to live.  Special holiday charity projects, dedicated time with family, Christmas shows and pageants, and even presents can be the catalyst that help us to remember and, at least for a time, shift our focus back to where we truly want it to be.  Even the advertising that can seem manipulative can actually be motivating. Yes, the people who make the commercials that show a child inviting a curmudgeonly neighbor to Christmas dinner are hoping that you will buy more greeting cards or groceries or whatever they are advertising.  That doesn’t mean the commercials don’t also help us remember the goodness and light that should come with Christmas.

Also, Christmas reminds us of the coming of Jesus into the world.  More people attend religious services than at most times of the year.  People who consider themselves “culturally Christian” may participate in church events at Christmas, even if they do not attend the rest of the year.  I believe you never know when that participation might foment into a more vibrant relationship with God.   Even people who are not believers celebrate a secular sort of Christmas.  They understand, in at least some tangential way, that the genesis of their celebration is the story of a Baby born to bring all the world’s people eternal life, love, peace, and joy.  In any celebration of Christmas, there must be some germ of Christianity.  Whenever people let their minds come close to Christ, they open themselves, at least a little bit, to the possibility of feeling God’s love for them.

So, it is a question of emphasis.  If we dread the early onset of Christmas because of the commercialism, stress, and coveting, Christmas creep is a bad thing.  On the other hand, if we focus on the true meaning of Christmas and try to use that message to improve the way we live in this world, Christmas can start creeping on December 26th, as far as I am concerned!

What do you think?  Does Christmas creep bother you?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Have a very merry day!

Terri 🙂

A Traditional Christmas

I think of traditions as little hooks that attach my soul to people, events, and values.  Traditions can serve as reminders of what is important to me.  Sometimes, when life starts to get routine or joyless, fulfilling a tradition can give me an infusion of happiness.  Traditions can force me to get outside the struggles of the moment and make me focus on happier times and, also, the blessings that blanket my overall life.

All of that is fine and positive.  It can be difficult, however, to let go of traditions when they no longer serve.  Those hooks strain and bend and mangle before they eventually break.  Sometimes I cling to traditions long after they cease to be useful or even reasonable. 

Christmas is one of those seasons most fraught with tradition.  In my family, following certain Christmas traditions and rituals has an almost mythic quality.  The traditions are numerous, varied, and complex.  Christmas in our house was always a huge, shiny affair involving every kind of delicacy, entertainment, and a truckload of presents.  Some of our traditions would be familiar to most American families- like decorating a tree and hanging stockings.  Other traditions are more specific to our family.  For instance, we always hung the bedraggled silver tinfoil bells that first graced my parents’ wedding reception.  Other traditions would be regarded as just plain wackadoodle by most people… like eating the traditional festive Christmas dinner of warmed up Kentucky Fried Chicken. 

At any rate, getting from the middle of November to the end of the year while fulfilling all the traditional holiday responsibilities could be something of a marathon in my household.  I can remember worrying, even as a small child, that my mother would wear herself out completing all the traditional preparations.  I remember begging her to not too get too tired to fulfill the most important tradition- everyone must be happy at Christmas.

The other unwritten rule about Christmas traditions is that they should never change or the world as we know it will crumble like a gingerbread cookie.  I convinced myself to believe in Santa Claus by sheer force of will until I was eleven years old just to avoid defiling a Christmas tradition.

I’ve come to the painful conclusion that Christmas traditions can and should change over time.  In 2014, Max and I moved to Florida at the beginning of December.  He had this brilliant idea that my family could celebrate Christmas at Thanksgiving when we would all be together.  We made a brave effort, but it was clear my family thought this was some form of sacrilege.  My mother had a Christmas tree at Thanksgiving and some presents.  My mother had a regular Christmas for my brother and his family on Christmas Day.  Also, because she couldn’t stand the thought of me not having Christmas on Christmas Day, she ended up mailing gifts for Max and me in our new home in Florida.  She even sent a small artificial Christmas tree.  Oddly enough, the world did not end because of the Christmas tradition violations.  Frankly, with the move and unpacking, it was kind of restful to have a quiet, spur-of-the-moment kind of Christmas.

In 2015, we were able to bring back some of the fa-la-la-de-rol.  Max and I were more settled in to our new home and my mother had moved from California.  We decorated, had Christmas presents under the tree, attended seasonal entertainments, and shared a nice time together.  Things were still not the same as in yesteryear.  They couldn’t be.  We lived 3000 miles away from some of our traditions.  My brother and his family were not with us.  Still, we found we had enough of our old tradition hooks and crafted enough new ones to make the holiday season unquestionably joyous. 

This year, with my mother’s illness, it is a challenge to find the merry and bright.  The vague notion of shopping and decorating and attending entertainments sounds tempting.  It is seductive to contemplate an escape into jolliness and frivolity.  The actual execution of that vague notion is daunting, however.  It seems easier to shut the door on the whole thing and lock myself away in the sadness.

Easier, perhaps.  But not better.  I am trying to plow through the inertia and grasp some tradition.  While it initially felt like overcoming the funk would be more effort than it was worth, I am finding that the Christmas traditions are lifting my mood a little bit.  After all, shutting the door on the shopping, decorating, entertainment, and trappings also tempts me to shut the door on another Christmas tradition.  The most important Christmas tradition.  The tradition of Joy.

“Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy that will be for all people for there is born to you this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”                                                            Luke 2:10-11

What are your holiday traditions?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  Merry Christmas!  May God bless us, everyone!

Terri 🙂

Hopping the Holly Jolly Express

As we pulled into the parking lot for our tour to Gaylord Palms and Celebration, it looked like we stumbled into an Ugly Christmas Sweater convention. There was an army of seniors dressed in all manner of holiday attire. There were festive t-shirts, sweatshirts, and sweaters galore. Some even jingled and lit up. I was not immune, although I like to think my white and gray sweater with the penguin on it and gray jeans were a tad more sophisticated. I’d like to think that, but I’d probably be wrong.

Even the bus was tricked out in Christmas regalia. There was a small, fully decorated Christmas tree seat belted into the first passenger seat on the driver’s side. A stuffed Santa Claus the size of a very hefty toddler sat beside the tree, also belted in. Safety first. Multi-colored twinkle lights graced the overhead storage compartments all the way down both aisles of the bus. The sound system blared “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.”

Yes, I was sitting in a 40 foot, 55 seat pimpmobile on my way to see ice sculptures and children playing in the snow. In Florida. Who’d of thunk it?  Can anyone tell me exactly when I turned 80 years old?  Last thing I remembered, I was a perfectly middle-aged woman of 57 who was tastefully decorating a gold, silver, and white Christmas tree.  Now, I have turned overnight into a woman way beyond a certain age, trapped in a bus that looks like the North Pole threw up in it.

Years ago, I saw a tv show that visited the most “Christmassy” places in the country.  Strangely, this bus did not make the list.  Gaylord Palms in Tennessee, however, did.  I was fascinated to see the elaborate Christmas decorations in the lobby and the amazing rooms full of Christmas-themed ice sculptures.  The resort boasted ice slides, a bar completely furnished with ice furniture, and a crèche room with a larger-than-life rendition of the Nativity story carved out of crystal clear ice.  When I heard that there was a Gaylord Palms in central Florida with the same Noel-y type notions, I knew I had to visit.

When I saw that there was a bus tour that supplemented a trip to Gaylord Palms with a stop at Celebration afterwards, I took the bait.  Celebration is “the town that Disney built.”  The Disney Corporation, flushed with the success of the Disney theme parks and hotels, decided to create a whole themed town as an experiment in urban planning.   The concept was that Celebration would be a modern version of Marceline, Mo, the town Walt used as a model for the theme park Main Street, USA.   They built a variety of housing options, all quaint and cute.  They established a town center with adorable little boutiques and restaurants.  They even make autumn leaves fall in October and November and deliver snow at the Christmas season.  At some point, Disney decided it was much harder to manage a real community than a fake one and sold the project.

At any rate, an evening of snow and beautiful decorations and cute, Christmassy shops after our Gaylord Palms experience sounded good to me, especially since it would relieve me of the need to find parking at Celebration.  Thus, we booked our seats on the Holly Jolly Express in early December.

The trip to Gaylord Palms was uneventful.  I began to wonder if I really needed the Christmas pimpmobile for this trip.  Especially when the tour guide, with no apparent embarrassment, confided that she HAD NEVER BEEN THERE BEFORE!

Still, now that I was committed to being one of the merry band of Christmasphiles, I was bound and determined to put my heart into it.  I allowed myself to be herded, along with 3 or 4 thousand other elderly elves (well maybe not quite that many, but A LOT!) into the foyer of ICE! – the great Christmas ice sculpture extravaganza.  As we entered into the exhibit area, friendly smurfs greeted us.  Actually, they may have been plain old garden variety Gaylord Palms employees who had just turned blue due to the sub-zero temperatures required to keep ICE!, well, ice. Or maybe they were just wearing huge blue parkas.

The smurfs explained that the temperature in the ice rooms was 5 degrees below zero and offered us parkas.  I thought they were concerned that our ancient blood might freeze over or that our already compromised circulation might collapse in the cold, but it seems they bundle all the guests into parkas.

As we turned the corner to enter the exhibit, I noticed that there was a mountain of ice off to one side.  Individual lanes descended down the mountain, allowing for several thrill-seeking riders as a time to whoosh down the ice to their probable death, for a separate admission.  No takers.  If you ask me, this mountain was proof that hell had, indeed, frozen over.

The ICE! exhibit was pretty amazing.  We walked through room after room of towering colorful ice sculptures, each meant to portray a section of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.   In one room, the scene shows a “little” (by giant standards, I guess) boy and girl, each poised at the top of their own bannister as they prepare to make a break for it.  Speaking of breaks, the bannisters contained 20-foot ice slides instead of stairs.  These slides were the milder version of the extremely high, extremely slick, and extremely steep slides in the other room. Two of our party decided to try them out. Luckily, no lives were lost, but there was still no way I was going to scoot my ample rear end down a sheet of ice.

There was a pop-up gift store at the exit of ICE!  It sold ICE!-related items, but also featured about 5000 square feet of Christmas decorations available for purchase.  So I did.  Purchase, I mean.

Then, outside the pop-up store, we spotted a small kiosk selling GINGERBREAD!  I gave up any wild thoughts I might have had of eating lunch and bought that spicy, delectable, melt-in-the-mouth Christmas treat that I crave all through the year but can only get at the holidays.  Max and I tucked into those cookies like ravenous, sugar-deprived wolves.

Then, the first of the downsides of a bus tour kicked in.  We were really pretty much finished doing everything we really cared about doing at Gaylord Palms, but the bus wasn’t going to be moving on to Celebration for another couple of hours.  Some people were having lunch at one of the regular sit-down restaurants, but Max and I had already decided we would eat a big meal in Celebration. The infusion of gingerbread made it pretty impossible to change our plan and eat a large lunch at Gaylord Palms.  Since our tour guide HAD NEVER BEEN THERE BEFORE, she had not provided any helpful hints on what to see or how to fill the time.  Max and I went rogue and explored the hotel on our own.  We actually saw a few interesting things, like a pen of baby alligators.

Finally, we were back on the bus and on our way to Celebration.  We reached Celebration just as it was getting dark and the Christmas lights were beginning to illuminate.  The little shop windows sparkled with holiday decorations.  There was a man-made ice rink set up for skating.  Workers were blowing snow onto a section of the street, designated for kids to play in a winter wonderland.  It was pretty charming, I have to say.  The whole thing reminded me at bit of Bedford Falls in It’s a Wonderful Life.

I wasn’t sure what we were going to do there for over two hours.  Our tour guide informed us, ONCE AGAIN, that she had never been to Celebration.  I am really not sure what value this lady added to the trip.  She was nice and everything, but isn’t a tour guide supposed to guide?

By this time, the gingerbread had worn off. Max and I went to a diner and had a yummy dinner.  As we were waiting for our meals to arrive, we saw horses and carriages pull up across the street.  We noticed children riding in a little train.  This gave us some ideas on how to fill our remaining time in The Town That Disney Built.

After dinner, we chatted with the fellows who were creating the “snowfield.”  It turns out that the “snow” is a laundry soap based concoction that is the consistency of gritty shaving cream.  They had a sort of reverse vacuum device that filled the area with about a six-inch layer of the stuff, which resulted in a wide expanse of area for kids to make snow angels, have snowball fights, and, in general, get the experience of snow without the cold and the wet.  How sensible!

Next, we went to inspect the horse and carriage brigade.  There was a horse and wagon, horse and Victorian-type carriage, and a horse and Cinderella coach.  We talked with the vendors and learned that we could take a 15-minute ride around Celebration in any of these conveyances, for a variety of prices, depending on which vehicle we took. We climbed onto the wagon, going with the cheapest option.  It was delightful.

After bidding adieu to our horse, we strolled around the little boutiques and purchased yet more Christmas paraphernalia.  A little before 7:00pm, a disembodied voice announced that the snowfall would commence in a few minutes.  We stood next to the skating rink to wait for the planned and scheduled weather.  Children with helmets and knee pads slithered around the ice.  Some even used a walker-like device to keep them upright while approximating skating.  I really thought the children playing in the snowfield were way more likely to incur injury.  Judging by the force and intensity with which they were throwing their small bodies on asphalt covered in a few inches of soapsuds to make snow angels, I am amazed no skulls were cracked.  I think they should have a concussion protocol for this snow angel sport.

The snow fell tidily, keeping to its assigned area, for about five minutes and then stopped until the next hourly demonstration of fake nature.  We got back on the Holly Jolly Express, expecting a quiet trip back to our car.

It was not to be.

We discovered the tour guide’s only added value was to encourage forced gaiety.  No sooner were we on our way when she insisted upon playing the Christmas movie, Deck the Halls, on the bus’s DVD monitor.  Deck the Halls may be the worst Christmas movie of all time.  This is not just my opinion.  Rotten Tomatoes gives it a rating of 6%.  Any self-respecting Christmas movie should at least get into the double digits, if only for the schmaltz factor.

After the movie, our tour guide passed out the lyrics for the Twelve Days of Christmas, assigning us each specific parts.  Max pretended to be asleep.  I checked to make sure he was still breathing because Deck the Halls might have been just enough for him to end it all.  His chest was moving up and down, so I concentrated on mumbling my assigned lyrics each time “six geese a-laying” came around.  I hated those geese.  A few people had obviously done more than a little liquid celebrating in Celebration and they were having a boisterously awesome time.

When the twelve drummers finished drumming, I thought we were finished.  No such luck.  The next DVD was a Honeymooners’ Christmas Special.  I ask you, in what decade was gambling away you and your best friend’s life savings and threatening violence against your wife and mother-in-law considered uproariously funny?  I think that must have been before my time.  You see, I really am not 80.

We finally, blessedly, returned to where we left our car. We were happy to leave the Holly Jolly Express that had been so cruelly hijacked by the demented Christmas purveyor of hilarity.

Would we do it again?  Probably.

It’s your turn.  Do you engage in any wacky, over-the-top Christmas activities?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com. Have a ho-ho-ho holiday season!

Terri 🙂

Programming note:  I’ll  be back to posting on Wednesday next week.  Since this post is a bit super-sized, you’ll have an extra day to read it before the next new post. :-0.