For the Love of Giving

I have a strange relationship with the Christmas season. Having been raised areligious and, at times, even anti-religion, I never could figure out what to think of Christmas. My parents both had poor relationships with their own parents and siblings, making holidays exceedingly tense whenever family was involved. Assuming they were involved at all – usually we didn’t have any extended family over for Christmas besides my grandparents, who lived two towns away.

Christmas, then, became an excuse to buy each other stuff, cook a fancy dinner, and listen to my dad sing and play Christmas songs on his guitar. We didn’t go to church, we didn’t drive for hours to get to family’s homes, we didn’t send out those Christmas photo newsletters about what the family did this year. We just kept to ourselves and decorated our tree.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve found less and less joy in the holiday. I never was interested in a lot of material possessions as a kid and that hasn’t changed much. I have my few pricey creature comforts (laptop, phone, kitchen stocked with good quality spices and herbs, quality makeup) but want for nothing. And without any sort of spiritual link to the winter solstice, this time of year, I found, can ring quite hollow.

So I’ve refocused on the season as one of giving. I volunteer year-round with a local parrot rescue (we foster birds, so we’re sort of volunteering 24/7) and I have a strict policy not to donate to religious, homophobic, or transphobic “charities.” So I’ve donated or adopted zoo animals in my friends’ names or, in the more recent cash-poor years, gone with wholly homemade gifts.

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If there’s one thing I do well, it’s throw myself into a cooking/baking task. So for the past few years, my husband and I have put together cookie samplers for our friends and family.

I show that I care about you by feeding you. I’m everyone’s Italian grandmother in a 31-year-old woman’s body. So I spent the past three days getting dough and ingredients together and all of today baking the crap out of everything I could touch.

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I suffer from chronic pain and fatigue, which makes standing up for very long a bit of a trial for me. I actually sat down several times on the kitchen floor because my hips gave out today. But I don’t mind. I love doing this. Making and doing for and giving to others – it’s my drug.

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This year, my drug was made up of Gingerbread Cookies, White Chocolate Covered Popcorn, Orange Chocolate Biscotti, Chocolate Peppermint Pinwheels, and Mexican Wedding Cookies (which I now include every single year because one year I left them out and I got complaints!).

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