Sometimes I think there may really be a war on Christmas, which the clever assailants are conducting through overexposure.
Every year the holiday movies, sponsored by a blitzkrieg of Yuletide commercials, start a little earlier, reducing peace on Earth to projected market share.
My suspicions were aroused when one of the networks started annual “Christmas in July” programming; surely those who seek to ruin the season are trying to render us numb to any feeling of anticipation.
Now is the time to be revisiting the rituals that give the season meaning, including the exchange of gifts, a traditional holdover from the pagan Solstice celebrations that preceded Christmas itself.
When I was young, with four children and a very limited budget, I made do with handmade presents.
When I was older and able to afford “better” my siblings complained that they missed the home baked stuff, and one sister-in-law revealed that her Christmas was incomplete without the struggle to get her share of my fudge!
This freed me from any concerns about the supply chain.
Now that the time has come for serious preparation I am not restricting myself to mere baking.
Besides, knitting enables me to ensure that at least once a year my kids will be wearing clean socks and the fattening fudge can be mitigated by the healthier inclusion of garden products.
At this point I must include a spoiler alert for my family: if you want to be surprised, read no further!
This year I am preparing packets of seeds from the garden, complete with planting instructions, baggies of dried beans and/or peas with a powdered vegetable mix, barley or rice, with an enclosed recipe.
I might make packets of dried herbs harvested this summer, like oregano, mint and basil, with suggestions in how to use them. I’m making a big batch of nutty kale chips to divide among what David calls my “unsuspecting family,”, but once they taste them, they’ll be fighting over them as well.
My lavender and rosemary bushes haven’t grown big enough to harvest yet, but when they have I’ll include them as well.
For now, I may buy some lavender and make sachets with them, keeping one for my backpack, and to put them off the scent trail, I’ll top off each gift with a bulb tied on with ribbon.
As an aside, I was assured that I should plant rosemary to deter the deer as they evidently cannot abide the smell. Perhaps not, but the elk have developed a taste for it.
If there’s a tool or gardening book you’d like this is the time to tell someone who plans on giving you a present, anyway.
Make it easy for your family and friends.
For some of my more trainable relatives I have arranged to buy the gift and let the giver know what they bought me … professional quality tools and a gardening fork adds a certain je ne sais quoi under the Christmas tree.
Happy holidays, however you define them.
In an increasingly divided time, let us remember the part about “good will to men”.
Mary Lowther is a columnist with the Cowichan Valley Citizen.