Friday, December 23, 2011

'Tis the Season

I don't think I ever associated the holiday season with anxiety dreams before. Maybe that says something about my Martha Stewart-esque organizational abilities. Or the fact that I don't really do much around the holidays anyway.

But last night. Ay yi yi. It might as well have been finals week in college. I had all the classics: I missed my flight, I read the calendar wrong, I couldn't find any of the presents I have hidden around the house, I never sent the cards....

I think it all started when I passed by the church yesterday and noticed an unusual amount of activity for a Wednesday afternoon. It wasn't until over an hour later that I realized it was Thursday, not Wednesday. Which meant the activity at the church was the extra confession hours they squeezed in this week. Of course by the time I figured this out, the extra confession session was over.

Damn- um, I mean, drat.

And I was doing pretty well up until yesterday, really. I even had a to-do list. Several of them.

I'm going to make a new list today, and this time it's going to be for real. No more screwing around with "do the laundry" or "find the dog." No. Today it's going to be strictly last-minute Christmas stuff. It will probably look something like this:

1. Go on Amazon.
2. Go on Amazon.
3. Go on Amazon.....

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Two Cute Girls, One Great Hymn

Happy St Nicholas' Day!

Not sure I got the punctuation right up there, But you get the idea.

Today is the Feast of St Nicholas, patron saint of, among other things, children and sailors. In the U.S it's not a commonly observed holiday, but I have been doing it for about 25 years now. This is all my friend Maggie's fault.

At the time I was living in NYC. So was my friend Maggie, along with her three-year-old son. The rest of her family lived on the West Coast, so she was really on her own. She was born into a Catholic family but the family had pulled out of the church when she was still in grade school, so she was pretty clueless.

One day Maggie showed up at my door and said, "We have to start some Christmas traditions for my son. Do you know any?"

I thought about this. The only Christmas traditions I knew from my own childhood were hiding from my dad as he tried to sort out the Christmas lights and wondering why we bothered to hang up stockings, since nobody ever put anything in them.

"Nope," I said.

Being the writer types we are Maggie and I then did the only thing we knew how to do in such circumstances: we went to Barnes and Noble. Where we actually found a book called "How To Have A Traditional Family Christmas," or something very close to that.
And one of its recommendations was "celebrate St Nicholas Day!"

So we started having little St Nicholas Day parties. At first we let Maggie's little boy pick the menu for dinner (the book recommended this). But this proved to be so disgusting that we gave up on that after a couple of years. Then we introduced the annual making of the gingerbread houses. I baked the walls, Maggie brought the candy, we went wild. Do yo have any hipster friends you'd like to see cut loose once in a while? Invite them to a gingerbread house party. It's amazing how intense the competition gets.

Time passed, Maggie's son grew up, but we kept on celebrating St Nicholas Day. We started giving our annual Christmas party as close to the feast as possible, and always announced it as a St Nicholas party, not a Christmas party or, God forbid, a "holiday" party. We always had a full house.

We;re not giving the party this year. Having the back walls ripped off your house is a real obstacle to lavish entertaining. But we will definitely do something special for good old St Nick.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

It's Still New

Yesterday I went to the 5pm vigil mass. I love going to the vigil mass. It has so many advantages over the Sunday morning masses. It's easier to park, for one thing. For another there is no temptation to head down to the basement afterwards and snag one of those delicious thousand-calorie donuts they serve every other week. Best of all, in winter it makes Sunday the only day of the week when I don't have to shovel snow off my car at some ungodly hour in the morning. I do not know who came up with the idea of the Saturday vigil mass, but in my book the man is a saint.

Oh, one more benefit: you can very conveniently get your sorry sinner soul to confession right before mass. Which I decided to do yesterday.

So I'm standing on the confession line, leaning against the wall, and mass starts. My parish is particularly generous about confession times, and they will keep hearing confessions all through the mass if they have to. Everyone on line just participates in the mass as usual until it's his turn.

Only yesterday we all found out this no longer works. Without those new cheat=cards from the pews, none of us knew the words to the new translation yet. After a few flubbed "and also with yous" most of us on the line gave up. Except one man in front of me, who made a valiant attempt to steal a card from a nearby pew. This ticked off the people in the pew, so he put it back.

I was still standing on line when we got to the Creed (it was a long line). I wasn't even going to attempt the new Creed on my own. Especially when I noticed even the celebrant was peering at his big missal very carefully as he read the prayer.

Then I noticed something else; the words were completely familiar. Hey, I thought, this is exactly like the Apostle's Creed! I didn't know that was a new option now!

The people on the confession line glanced at each other-- Are you hearing what I'm hearing?- and then, hesitantly, joined in.

Of course at the end of mass the celebrant made an announcement: "So, did anybody figure out I turned the wrong page and read the wrong creed? Oops!"

My fellow parishioners, being the good-natured sorts they generally are, just laughed.

It's all worth it. It'll take a while, but it's all worth it.