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Happy Holidays from Maud Carol Markson

December 25, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Holidays

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Merry Christmas! Here’s an author’s very personal experience that is actually universal — celebrating the holiday of your own for the first time away from home.

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Christmas in California

MaudtmbWhen I moved out to California fifteen years ago, I did not go home for Christmas. Instead of cold and snow and a gray day that pressed up against an early dark night, my Christmas was suddenly filled with sunlight, and the deep blue skies that exist in the winter in Northern California. This was the first Christmas that I had not spent with my parents and the rest of my extended family. And rather than feeling sad or nostalgic, I felt as light as the day.

I come from a big family and Christmas was always chaotic with lots of food, lots of presents, and always lots of hurt feelings, disappointments, anger, tears. So I found it particularly liberating to make my own Christmas traditions that year, to not be restricted by what I had eaten or done all the years before. Since my husband’s family did not celebrate Christmas, I was truly free to make this day our own. We selected our tree—a large Noble Fir that filled our living room with its pine scent and its lights. I baked all my favorite cookies the week before, and our house smelled delicious every day. I chose my own menu for our large breakfast and then for a simple dinner. I hung stockings not just for our son, but also for our dog. I gave our son new pajamas that Christmas Eve (and have done so every year since) so that on Christmas morning he would look good for the photographs. In the afternoon, we all went for a long walk, our dog’s red velvet collar strung with bells jingling all the way. There were few expectations that Christmas; it was quiet, relaxed (although there was still plenty of food and presents), and joyous.

I miss my large family on the East Coast, I miss the beautiful manger under the tree, and the ornaments that have stood the test of time. I miss my mother’s spicy gingerbread cookies with the sweet icing, and the chestnuts my father roasts in the fireplace. I miss the prayers at midnight mass. And I miss the noise of all those people gathered together at one table. Oh, but I love my new Christmas traditions—I love that they are ours, and I love the peace I feel inside when I wake up each Christmas morning since I arrived in California. And I love feeling thankful for my small family celebrating beside me and my larger family celebrating far away.
Maud Carol Markson (When We Get Home, Looking After Pigeon)

[Please note that readers who purchased The Help also purchased Looking After Pigeon.]

4 Comments to “Happy Holidays from Maud Carol Markson”


  1. We stayed in California for Christmas this year. It’s sunny and beautiful out. We’re about to go for a walk. But I do miss Christmas with my extended family. (Hey–my security word is … magic :))

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  2. Kristina Riggle says:

    I know the feeling! We also celebrate Christmas Day itself with only our own small family, saving the extended family holiday celebrations for other days/weekends close to the 25th.

    It’s a peaceful feeling after all the bustle and travel and frantic busy-ness to sink into the simple joy of children playing with their toys in their pajamas, with nowhere to be and nothing particular to do.

    I just finished LOOKING FOR PIGEON and enjoyed it!

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  3. Marc Hirsch says:

    This is our first white Christmas in Virginia in the 5 years we have lived here. I have been in California at Christmas, visiting with family in the OC area. It was funny caroling in the neighborhood wearing a short sleeve shirt, while my sister and her kids and the other carolers wore winter coats and mittens in the 50F “cold”! Far different that when we caroled in Maplewood, NJ.

    Thanks for sharing. On the one or two occassions at your house, I do recall the excessive (in a good way) amounts of food.

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  4. Kiristina,

    So glad you enjoyed Looking After Pigeon.

    And I’m also glad you understand what I wrote about my holiday here in California.

    I hope you enjoyed a wonderful holiday season.

    Maud

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