The holidays are upon us and you can feel it in the air in the San Juan Islands. Slowing, surely,
the season’s magical spell has taken hold with the remarkable sense of community. Actively
emerging in early December, a spirited and creative time of year, it is a precious time when
memory and other strands of our lives can come together in powerful and fun ways.
The holidays are a time of sentimental triggers. Holiday memories – we carry them with us all
our lives. While memories may blur and fade, one can almost always recall where one was for
holidays past. This seems especially true in the islands. The holidays in the islands are truly
remarkable – indescribable really – for young and old alike.
December’s gifts – custom, ceremony, celebration, consecration – come to us wrapped up, not in
tissue and ribbon, but in cherished memories. No matter where you live or how old you may be,
holidays from your childhood have a special glow about them.
In this society of ours, which often seems broadly skeptical about the value of tradition, it is a
wonderful thing for families warmly embracing the positive benefits that tradition can actually
carry. This extends uniquely to the holidays.
There is a calming stability in island holiday celebrations and rituals; both the preparation and
celebrations create memories that last a lifetime. Traditions can be sacred or silly, but they
become a strong source of bonding, love, and security. The magic, mystery, decorations,
presents, singing, laughter, and special food of the island holiday season are all part of the
traditions lovingly handed down from generation to generation. Even for those who shun
tradition and ritual the rest of the year, the holidays are a time we often return to the security of
their fold. Holiday traditions resonate with the imprimatur of time; they become our identity,
writing our history, and reflecting cultural heritage.
We may think traditions are carved in stone, but really they adapt beautifully to new
circumstances if we let them. This year is a perfect example of just that. Introducing new festive
rituals as our lives change is how we continually open ourselves to wonder, ensuring that our
future memories of holidays past bring both contentment and renewal. As we seek to put our
own stamp on tradition and imbue celebrations with our own sense of style in a safe fashion, we
discover the irresistible variety of both.
The holidays in the islands are memorable, to be sure…
Even for those who shun tradition and ritual the rest of the year, Christmas is one time we often return to the security of its fold. Holiday traditions resonate with the imprimatur of time; they become a part of our identity, writing out family history and reflecting cultural heritage.
As we seek to put our own stamp on tradition and imbue celebrations with our own sense of style, the irresistible variety of both savory and sweet homemade edible gifts one can lovingly prepare becomes a noteworthy concept. Many in the islands feel that homemade gifts are the best, and edible gifts are the best of all! It is easy to become highly domestic at this time of year as many of the visible tokens of celebration are, in fact, projects that are both relaxing and pleasurable.
It may be wonderful jellies or jams, aromatic breads, cookies and candies, special dressings for salads, a seasoned salt, sugar flavored with vanilla beans, or vinegars seasoned with berries or herbs. There are butters, sauces, condiments, liqueurs, spiced nuts, and cakes. You are limited only by your imagination
A good part of just about anything is the presentation. It is a visual sort of thing. However simple or small the gift, beautiful wrapping makes it just that more special; the packing becomes part of the present. A velvet sack, a simple box, or basket can be both wrapping and gift. Hard to wrap items can be sheathed in fabric, tucked into baskets, or encased in netting.
Why not combine your food gift with another gift? Offer cookies in a jar or seasoned salt in its own shaker. Place a loaf of bread on a breadboard or set muffins in a basket lined with a holiday gift towel. Tie a unique spreader around a crock of apple butter. Give a gift certificate for ice cream with a jar of homemade chocolate sauce!
The heart of Christmas is giving. We may bemoan the commercialism of the holidays, but generosity still underlies the essence of the season. We recognize the pleasure in choosing a gift we hope will delight the recipient and take joy in bestowing it. Homemade gifts are invested with thoughtfulness. Perhaps both making and giving is the true spirit of the season…