Fall is here, really here this week. You can feel the whole world just winding down. Summer seemed to last a little longer past Mabon this year, with a few extra days of relative warmth. Suddenly, all that warmth went away. It really was sudden. The walnut tree in my neighbor’s backyard, the one that is framed in my kitchen windows whenever I do the dishes, quite suddenly went from green to yellow in the space of a day, before dropping its leaves. Suddenly, thousands of walnuts seemed to appear in front of my shed, from another neighbor’s walnut tree. Suddenly, it was time to bring out the jackets, and my feet were cold in the mornings when I came upstairs for my coffee.
Everything is winding down, preparing for winter. I can feel the momentum gathering for the winter holidays. Now we are getting ready for Halloween, for Samhain and trick-or-treating, the last harvest feast, the embracing of the growing darkness. After that, it will be Thanksgiving, and then it will be Christmas, and then it will be New Year’s, and then it will be Imbolc, and then it will finally be Ostara and the world will be waking up again. Everything between Mabon and Ostara feels like a dream, like a party in the night. There is no work to be done outside, all the gardens are put to bed for the winter. We light the fires and we bake, we drink, we toast, we play games.
Every year I go into this season promising myself something different. I promise that I am going to buy presents early, that I am going to magically find thoughtful gifts for everyone even though I’ve never been good at that before. I am going to wrap presents early, I am going to decorate the house beautifully. Every year becomes the year we are going to put lights on the house, the year we are going to bake lots of cookies, the year we are going to have a holiday party. Every year I get to Christmas Day a little exhausted, annoyed, stressed out, tired. Yet here I am, approaching Samhain and gearing myself up for the same old promises, the same old unreasonable expectations, the same old comparisons to this family with their incredibly imaginative Halloween costumes, or that family with the awesome holiday party and their beautifully decorated house, or the other family out sledding and caroling and doing all the cold outdoors things.
I’m not sure how to get around this. I want these things, I want to do the fun things with my children, I want to enjoy things like sledding and parades instead of just feeling miserable and cold. I want to have a beautifully decorated house, with trinkets here and there that have been thoughtfully pulled from their seasonal storage and placed with care, instead of accidentally left up since last Yule, or possibly Yule from three or four years ago.
Or maybe I just want to be able to go with the flow and enjoy the ride, enjoy spending time with my children and family however that time comes around. Maybe I want to embrace my right to say to hell with Thanksgiving dinner, I’m going to find a Robot Wars competition to watch while the rest of the neighborhood watches football, and I’m going to watch it while eating chips and queso and sausage balls and all the other junk food. Maybe I can ask my children to help brainstorm ways to make the holidays a little more merry for everybody, instead of counting the presents and candies under the tree on Christmas morning.
What is your flight plan as the holidays approach? How has it worked out for you in years past?