Wednesday, December 25, 2013

From The Bottom Of My Chocolate-Covered-Low-Lactose-Jelly Heart...

Well, I don't know about you, but I did not entirely succeed in not being a grinch about Christmas. By the time Solstice is over I'm usually ready to spend a couple of weeks in bed with my books and notes and pencils and ideas. I'm ready for long walks and the aimless wandering and organizing stones into stacks and twigs into spirals. I'm ready for camping trips and  I'm ready to sew and make small things. I'm ready for solitude.

What I'm not ready for is more socializing, hanging out, pressure to make amazing food, or give good gifts, or this year,even for the great, intense work that this new year will inevitably require.
This morning though, the traditional day of Christmas celebrations, I suddenly felt my Grinch-y-ness lift. You could even say I got into the "spirit of Christmas" (but I would probably roll my eyes at you).
It suddenly occurred to me that I was about to get to spend time with some of our nearest and dearest people. That right now, we were all making time for each other, gathering, not around gifts and pressure and expectations, but family. That any stress that occurs is caused, not by Yuletide itself, but our forgetting what the spirit of the season really is.

And like always, as soon as I let go of those expectations, ideas of how how things might be, or should be, they turned out just fine wonderful. I made four kinds of Finnish food, Christmas and otherwise and we had a long, leisurely breakfast with our dearest friends, neighbors and soon-to-be business partners.
We talked and goofed around and ate till we could no more, and no one was in a rush to get anywhere, because by now things that needed to be done are finished, for better or worse.

Later we each walked around the neighborhood, doing chores. There was the kind quiet about, that I associate with this time, a hush that falls on the neighborhoods back home, when all the stores are closed and all the rushing about is done and there's nothing more to do to settle into the dark and the quiet and the warm inside and the cold outside.

Later in the afternoon, Mali came over and hung out while I prepared some more Finnish Christmas foods. She's only here for a spell, so it was a real treat to see her. She going trough big, amazing changes in her life too and it's so good to see her in person and catch up.

As the rest of our dinner crowd appeared, all a little late, all toting wonderful foods and bottles of bubbly drinks, it struck me again how blessed and lucky we are with this oddball "family" to add to our "real" families. How rich in good food and good cheer and warmth.
Some gifts were given, some were received, none expected. A few decorations put in place, like my grandmother's star ornament, the straw goat and the knitted tonttu. There were lots of hilarious stories and serious stories and jokes about German-Mexican fusion food.

Having this wonderful day, reminded me of what I love about this time of year: the sweetness and sincerity and generosity of it. The traditions that link these seasons together, that make us who we are, the new traditions we make with new friends and new families. The foods, the decorations, the songs that represent them.

For the most part I prefer the somber, melancholy Finnish Christmas songs and hymns to their jollier American counterparts. There is something very spiritual about them, beyond their apparent religious message even. So much so, that even though my own family was never Christian, we would often go to Church on Christmas morning.

Those early mornings, when the light, or rather the darkness, was still that inexplicable Northern blue, as we walked to church trough luminous snow, I would hope that the choir might sing my very favorite Finnish Christmas song.

It's called, loosely translated " I Seek Not Power Nor Glory". If there's one lessons I'm learning from this Yule season, it is to play that song often and early in December.

It goes something like this:

I seek not power, nor glory
I do not long for gold,
But ask only for the light of Heaven
and peace on Earth

This Christmas brings
that which makes us happy
and lifts our minds to God

Not power nor glory,
but peace on Earth

Grant me a quiet cabin
and a tree for the children,
the light of  the Holy word
and my soul will come to shine

Bring to each home
no matter how small
the sweetest celebration 
of Christmas

The light of  the Holy word
and a generous spirit

To rich and poor alike
comes Christmas time
bringing into the darkness of the world
the light of Heaven

I long for thee
I wait for thee
O Lord of Heaven and Earth

To the rich and poor alike 
bring Christmas time

I love that a song as old as this reminds us of the perils of materialism and how important to just be in the moment and be grateful for what you have. That this celebration, in this incarnation, or I imagine, the previous ones is about having a moment of quiet in the cacophony of the World. A moment of giving, a day of seize-fires. A short window in time when we focus on being together, feeding each other, having a grand time...

Every year for Christmas my mom sends us a box of Finnish chocolates. It's becoming a family tradition. We dole out the chocolates carefully, a few at a time. We spend a great deal of time selecting them and enjoy them slowly. My favorite is the chocolate-covered-jelly-heart, according to the packaging it is the only low-lactose candy in the bunch. Both jelly and lack of lactose make C. very suspicious of it, but to me, it's a part of the little tiny things that make Christmas: family, friends, melancholy songs about the holiness of the moment, the smell of cardamom bread, lovingly packed faraway candies. It really doesn't take much to have perfectly imperfectly decent Christmas time.

So here's me wishing you a Merry Christmas (or whatever holiday, or non-holiday you choose to celebrate) From The Bottom Of My Chocolate-Covered-Low-Lactose-Jelly Heart!



  1. Have a peaceful but joyous time tomorrow my dear. xo

  2. How wonderful to read that you have found the spirit of the holiday, whatever that holiday might be. A very merry non-Christmas to you! :)

  3. The Christmas you describe, is the Christmas I long for. This years Christmas was a bit lonely for me, what I wouldn't give to be surrounded by friends close as family to enjoy a simple yet beautiful day. These things take time I guess. One day. Happy to hear you are enjoying this time :))

  4. Hauskaa Joulua, Milla! Glad you've had a lovely time with your dear ones ~ and that song was so beautiful, thank you for sharing it! <3 hugs to you ~ :)

  5. Thank you darling Milla for sharing these musings, stories and pictures with us! It's good to be part of these festivities somehow, and to feel how much you are enjoying your friend's company. Also, the song is lovely (and I am planning to listen to the rest of this choir's music on the Web!) and Mali looks strangely like a blond little sister of mine, or at least I guess so, since I don't have a sister.

    I have been re-reading the story of the year when Magician visited the Moomin's valley... As wonderful as ever.


  6. ihanaa ja iloista joulunaikaa!!!

  7. Oh wow! Seems we have had a very similar Christmas day with the same feelings:)
    Love to read your blog* Such a beautiful Christmas season discover!!

  8. that bread looks frickin' awesome!

    your christmas sounds like it was a fun one! friends, bubbly drinks and yummy food are always a recipe for goodness. love ya!

  9. Thank you for stopping by! I'm having a lovely holiday season, it is very different though in that i was not able to spend christmas day with my family, but i was still able to see them. I hope your Christmas went well! By the looks of it you did!
    You live on an island in the PNW? That is so awesome! I'm sure it's very different than an east coast island!

  10. Oh Milla I'm so happy to be reading your blog again, it's always so comforting and real. I have been too lazy to start mines back up again and the funny part is I pretty much live almost a hermit lifestyle too. You always inspire me. Much love to you !!! And your cats too!

    1. I miss you, try to be a hermit blogger pls!

  11. so wonderful to see you are still righting and sharing your amazing photos with us, thank you.I have been reading your blog for a couple of years now but never really comment.Just wanted to say Thank you and happy holidays.

  12. Merry Christmas Milla :) A very sweet post!

  13. beautiful~and belated yule blessings from this ancient forest xoxox

  14. sounds like a perfect way to celebrate. i think the best approach to holidays is to say ef it to perfection baking/cooking and excessive gifting and to simply enjoy a day of friends/family and some quiet moments, juxtaposed with a few chaotic ones - if you're like me and spend christmas with many family members, including kids. :)

  15. I have really loved your recent posts about the holiday season. You've managed to put into eloquent words some of how I too feel about this time of year, but have not been able to articulate. I had never heard of that carol before, but it's absolutely beautiful. After reading the words of it, I realized that they express what I wish for every year at this time, and what so many of the richer and more ancient songs express: peace, and light in the darkness.

    I hope your entire holiday season was full of these things.