Like most people, I love the holiday season. Twinkle lights, presents, ornaments, crackling fires, mistletoes, parties, and all that fa la la la la la la la la. (I’d like to throw in snow angels, but I live in LA, so I’ll just keep it real).
My husband and I are on a mission to cultivate holiday traditions that will resonate with our daughter, hopefully, for the rest of her life. And despite our varied holiday experiences, we naively thought this would be a simple enough undertaking.
Now we are facing the nail-biting actuality of trying to condense about sixty combined years of our Nigerian, Danish, Jewish and American cultures into a cohesive Christmas celebration.
To make things simple, we figured out the essence of what we would like our Christmas to be about. It came down to family, no-stress and generosity. Anything that didn’t fit in with that had to go!
A few traditions that didn’t make the cut include ringing in the season with shooting guns, themed sweaters, matching pajamas, the awkward family photo, obligatory time with disagreeable family members (life’s too short, uncle Pete!), and no offense to The Elf on the Shelf, but the concept of a tiny mythical creature living in my home (rent-free) and watching to see if my child is naughty or nice just won’t fly.
Instead, Gerstle Christmases will include ornaments representing significant milestone for the year, homemade Christmas cards, candlelight services, time around the fireplace dancing and drinking Gløgg (a mildly vile yet oddly satisfying Danish drink), lighting of the menorah, a stroll down Christmas tree lane, and once in a while we’ll even make the trip to the motherland to participate in the colorful masquerade festival.
Most importantly we would like to avoid the pervasive notion that Christmas is all about how much we can eat and all the stuff we can get. Rather we want to capture in our home and impress upon our child the spirit of the season; that intangible something in the air that causes people to be just a bit nicer and more generous than usual.
As such, in place of our customary gift exchange, we’ve decided to help a refugee family in the process of rebuilding their lives. Don’t get me wrong, we love presents as much as the next family, and I’ll probably cave and get Noé that easel I’ve convinced myself she needs. However, with all of the hardship happening around the world, and the difficulties our country has been through lately, regardless of how anyone chooses to mark the season, we could all use a bit of kindness.
Merry Christmas and Season’s Greetings, Everyone!