Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas: The Aftermath

Forgive the silence, like just about everyone else, the last few days were a hectic mess of getting things done for Christmas. What you may ask? The usual, wrapping presents, taking the boys out to look at Christmas lights in order to give Beloved some wrapping time of her own, and of course baking.

Yup, baking.

It's become a tradition for me to spend a good two or three days in the kitchen baking and cooking for Christmas various treats and dishes (Thankfully for my sanity, the Emperor of Japan himself helps in this. December 23rd is the emperor's birthday and thus a holiday that is usually perfectly placed in order to let me get the bulk of the baking done). The usual range is eggnog (made from eggs, no mix here), gingerbread men, sugar cookie cutouts, snowball cookies, and cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning with a New York style cheesecake for our Christmas cake on Christmas eve. This year I added fudge and clam chowder to the mix as well, though I got to move the cheesecake till after Christmas.

Now, oddly enough, excepting the cinnamon rolls and clam chowder, none of the above figures in how I would celebrate Christmas back home in the States. I would bring home Cinabons for Christmas morning though and in my family, Mom's clam chowder in a sourdough breadbowl is the dinner for Christmas Eve, but in terms of cookie production, it just never happened. Let me hasten to state this isn't due to my mother being a bad cook (And no, I am not just stating that because she reads this blog some times), but more of a problem of single mother and way too much to do around Christmas to spend the day making cookies. That said, I had a number of relatives and friends who do/did the whole Christmas treat overload every Christmas and had no qualms about sharing. We didn't bake them, but we sure did eat them.

Which is more or less why I now spend a two days producing massive amounts of cookies. I simply missed the tastes of home during Christmastime and wanted to replicate them as much as possible. Once Beloved tasted the buggers, she got hooked. Since she likes to share, we now have a horde of family/friends/co-workers (I take a plate into my school) who also have started to look forward to Christmas baking.

But it has become more than being a bit homesick for the holidays, it's become making Christmas traditions for Makoto and Hikaru. As I previously mentioned, Christmas in Japan is not Christmas in the US. I'm sure many parents feel the tug every year of wanting to re-create their childhood Christmases for their own children, to re-capture the magic, to make memories, to... have that family Christmas. I am no different in this, but I am faced with a problem of being in Japan. My family is half way around the globe, the culture is very different, we lack any number of things that I took for granted back at home, but I still want to make Christmas happen for the boys in at least a semi-American sense.

Don't let squirrels happen to YOUR Christmas!
The semi bit is important I think. It would be impossible to recreate Christmas in America over here in Japan and to try... Well, I have no wish to host a real life version of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (The best warning there ever was about going overboard on getting the 'perfect' Christmas). As with many things, I've had to pick and choose want I want to pass on to my sons for them to remember. Baking works, it really does. Christmas was never a massive affair at my house growing up. That is to say, while we enjoyed it and celebrated it, it didn't usually involve massed relatives or going overboard on decorations, etc.

The only relative who was usually involved was my grandmother on my mother's side who lived 45 minutes away, meaning my sister and I would have to wait until she woke up and came to our house before opening presents, a horrible torture for children and one that felt like it lasted somewhere between a lifetime and a day or eternity.

But we did have our traditions from stocking raids to the above mentioned Cinabons and thus why I bake so much. After just 5 Christmases, Makoto has taken it as Gospel that this is how things happen. We have fun baking together, cutting out cookies, and he has fun with the smells of Christmas (Hikaru it should be noted isn't all that interested in baking, he's got the eating thing down though). We have other traditions from, again, looking at Christmas lights in a nearby park (This year, thankfully, there was a lack of Christmas lights shaped to look like bugs) to watching certain Christmas films from the US (A Charlie Brown Christmas for example), to the all important reading of "A Visit from St. Nicholas" before bed on Christmas Eve before setting out the eggnog and cookies for Santa.

According to Beloved's friends, this looks like a storybook
It's not my family's Christmas in the United States, it's nothing like the Christmas I grew up with, but it has become Christmas in Japan and so far it seems to be working in terms of making memories. Makoto and Hikaru both were thrilled with their gifts and the food (Oh boy was Hikaru thrilled with the food, he has been non-stop demanding cookies for days), and Beloved has been enjoying herself by taunting her friends on Facebook where she posts pictures of what looks like a storybook Christmas to her Japanese friends and casually mentioning that she has to do none of it, all the heavy lifting is provided by her husband. It is Christmas in Japan, but not a Japanese Christmas. It isn't an American Christmas either, but it is our Christmas and worth all the extra hassle.

But as for now, the gifts have been unwrapped, our tree is now dark, and Christmas goes back to sleep till next year. After this small taste of America, we're getting ready for an extra-large helping of Japanese, because New Year's is upon us and if I was busy as all heck for Christmas, Beloved has her turn at bat as we head towards Oshogatsu.

Merry Christmas!
This is how you know Christmas was well spent, two happy kids and a BIG mess

1 comment:

  1. Christmas baking is the best, and a big mess around the tree = happy boys!