Ahhh. Survived another High Holy Day of Mass Consumerism. I actually find it befitting that Christmas in America is all about selling, buying, shopping, giving and getting STUFF. The common religion here (and in Japan, too, really) is Capitalism and it seems like every holiday, be it religious, political or cultural, has been usurped by that religion. People are enticed into buying decorations, cards, gifts. We feel the need to have big lavish feasts. But Christmas is the Big One.
The Dog Family is a large, extended, traditional values kind of family and just being in Dog Family Central is a great anthropological adventure, so it is especially interesting to hang out with them during these Holy Days. I can observe how they celebrate the season -- all the "relics" and "icons" they buy to make their homes a suitable vessel for the Big Day(s), the gifts, the rituals..... And in it all, there is no mention of the birth of the Christian Messiah. Even the traditional creche is devoid of anything Jesus. Instead of a nativity scene, they have little European-looking houses surrounded by fluffy cotton "snow." There are angels and stars and santas and snowflakes, candy canes and gingerbread and lit up trees, candles and baked ham and tons of sweets, laughter and joy, tons of presents and good cheer... but where's Baby Jesus???
I used to laugh at Japanese people celebrating Christmas -- having parties, decorating trees, fathers going home on Christmas Eve (a normal working day) with a Christmas cake, taking down the Christmas decorations on the 25th (another normal working day) because most Japanese think Christmas is all about Christmas Eve and by the 25th, they are in preparation mode for New Year's, the real Japanese holiday -- without knowing anything about Christianity. But now that I am here in America, I see that it's not really a religious holiday here, either. I am sure that it's way more religious in some families than others, but if you came here from another planet and only had the media to learn from, you would also think that Christmas was some kind of Capitalist Holiday, too.
For me, the Christmas/Yearend season had traditionally been a Busy Work Season. When I lived and worked in Tokyo, this was the busiest time of year. Many parties to emcee, shows to pre-record (New Year's is the Big Holiday in Japan and work stops for about a week to 10 days during that time, so many tv and radio shows are pre-recorded.) I remember years when I was working from 8am until after midnight, then going to some party and coming home at 4am only to have to get up again in a few hours. I was hardly ever home. I was part of the whole Capitalist Machinery profiting from this season!
This year, though, we were at the ranch during the couple of weeks leading up to the Holy Day and in between pruning (too early but it was now or never) I was busy making little craft gifts. My mother was a Major Crafts Mom so I did a lot of knitting, sewing, embroidering, etc. when I was young but it's been a long time since I've done anything that wasn't work related so my work was a bit sloppy and a bit silly but it was much less stressful than going shopping...
I started with grapevine reindeer. I saw some at a local nursery in LA and said (like I always do) "Oh, I can make that!" It was a lot harder than I thought! And I found out that grapevine is not a very good material for making these guys. At least not our grapevines.
"It looks like a greyhound," said Big Dog before I stuck on some antlers.
A smaller version worked better...but none of them were good enough to give anybody, even though I think they are cuter than the factory made (illegal immigrant made?) versions we see everywhere. They are still guarding the garden shed and the main house at the ranch. Maybe next year...
Wisteria is nice and gnarly. Willow is smooth and beautiful and I love the tri-color effect of the green, yellow and red. There are also grasses and pine needles and an unidentifiable vine that grows near our creek... Oh, so many cool gifts from nature to work with!!