Does anyone else feel deeply lazy during the holidays? I rolled out of bed this morning with the desire only to read and read and read. Now, there’s nothing wrong with reading, especially not for a writer. But I have work to do today!
My desire to read, I think, comes from my school years when my teachers would assign a book to read over the Christmas vacation. I remember reading The Lord of the Flies by William Golding while snow fell outside the window and my mother baked Christmas cookies. I read Hiroshima by John Hersey on New Year’s Day one year after we’d gone out for our annual family dinner. I was so full, I could barely move. I lay on my bed and read Hersey’s account of the devastation the atom bomb visited on that Japanese city in a split second. I read A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce twice during Christmas vacation my senior year in high school. It was part of my final for an independent project I’d been doing, and I had a long list of questions to write about regarding the book — some questions required extensive research. I loved it.
How many of us slow down long enough during the holidays to read a good book? Really savor it? We’re up to our ears in holiday shopping, addressing cards, searching for the perfect e-cards, posting at Facebook, baking and cooking, wrapping presents, or maybe…stuck in an airport because of weather delays and cancellations. No doubt about it, it’s old news that the holidays can be extremely stressful, especially if one isn’t adept at delegating tasks. When is there time to kick back, put the feet up, and spend some time reading for your own enjoyment?
My parents used to complain about the time I spent with my nose in a book. They’d want me to do some chore or run some errand, and I would put it off until I’d finish the chapter. They never understood. The way they saw life, when they asked their daughter to do something, well, she better hop to it immediately. My father, especially, demanded I work hard during the holidays. As an adult visitor in their home, I was shocked by his attitude. I tried reasoning with him — I’d been working at a demanding full-time job plus doing all my own housework and holiday tasks, so when I came “home” to their house, I was not looking to be their maid. It ruined the visit for me. I chipped in all the time, helping my mother especially, but I was not going to be their maid. My mother gave me credit (and thanks) for my help. My father failed to even notice. My father could have learned from reading books that making demands isn’t the way to encourage children to help out, and it’s important to notice when they do.
I don’t really celebrate the holidays now in any conventional traditional way. I don’t enjoy the commercialization of Christmas and New Year’s, or the stress of celebration. What I enjoy is spending time with my friends, in person or via Skype, and reading. Several years ago, I adopted my own holiday tradition of reading a novel on Christmas day from the moment I woke until I went to bed, with bathroom and eating breaks. I loved it so much, I decided to do the same thing on New Year’s day. I start thinking about which novels I’ll read at the beginning of November. The only rule is the book must be fiction. Some years, I’ve not finished the books on the holiday, and the enjoyment has continued for several days afterward. I do this as a special gift for me as a writer.
What special gift do you give yourself each Christmas and New Year’s?