Happy new year! As 2011 begins, I find myself hopeful for the year to come, and grateful for the one that has ended, difficult as it was. It was a year that helped me grow. Our whole family found it to be a challenging year, and we were glad to put it behind us. To ring in the new year together and bid the old one goodbye, we started what I think will be a new tradition – my husband, cousins and I wrote down the things we wanted to let go from 2010 (emotions, things that were hard or caused us unhappiness). Each of us wrapped our list around a branch cut from the Christmas tree, and we burned them in the fire pit. Watching all the things I wanted to let go of burn away felt good – like a fresh start. 2011 is a blank page. I like that.
One of the best things about the year that just ended, though, turned out to be handmade Christmas. It was a success! Although I was afraid that not buying things would disappoint my family (or leave them thinking I was cheap or stingy or uncaring), the handmade gifts were well received. I’m including a few photos of what we made and gave to our families this year:
I made gift baskets with homemade pantry soaps and soy wax candles. The soaps are scented with pantry staples (honey, ginger, cardamom and clove) and the candle is poured into a thrift store teacup!
Framed family trees, with my grandmother and grandfather’s sides of the family written in tree form with wedding dates. These were definitely a success. My dad very helpfully provided all the information – he’s been diligently compiling family geneaology for both sides of the family for a good while now.
For my dad, I put together a book of my grandmother’s stories and recipes, in digital format. I really enjoyed hearing about her childhood as we worked on the book. My favorite was the story of Christmas. Her father, a farmer who loved to hunt, would go “fox hunting” every year in late December. That evening, “Santa Claus”, in full costume, would stop by the house, take each child on his lap, and listen to what they wanted for Christmas. She said her older sister eventually realized it was their father in costume, but kept the secret so that the younger siblings could still enjoy Santa’s visit. Each year, my Grandma woke to find oranges and perhaps a toy in her pinned-together socks, which she draped over a chair by the bed. One year on Christmas Eve she woke in the middle of the night and felt for the socks, and could feel the shape of a doll tucked into them. She said she was so excited to wake up and have that doll to play with. She showed me the handmade doll’s chair her own mother used to play with, which must date back to the 1800’s – her mother handed it down to her, and she played with it with her Christmas doll. Hearing her stories and writing them down was the best part of preparing for Christmas, and watching my dad read them was one of the best parts of Christmas day. I can’t speak for everyone else, but for my part, handmade Christmas was a pleasure and a success.
Now, the New Year. We anticipate moving this year, to wherever my husband gets into graduate school. I don’t know where we’ll wind up. I’ll finish my own graduate program, and hopefully find a job in our new and as-yet-undetermined town. It’s exciting, and maybe a little scary – we intend to sell or give away almost all of our possessions before we move. We will have each other, and the cats, and that’s more than enough. I have so much to be grateful for in this New Year. Instead of writing resolutions, I just started it with a blank slate, having let go of all the things I didn’t want to carry with me into 2011. It feels lovely, and liberating.
What do you look forward to in this new and wide open year?