Why I Love the Holiday Season

Happy Holidays, folks!

I love the holiday season.  Let me share with you a few of my reasons why.

It’s no secret, Christmas is a pretty big deal in my family.  Even though my brother and I are in our twenties, and we have assured my mother she doesn’t need to go overboard, she still insists on doing her best to FILL the bottom of the Christmas tree every year.  Christmas Eve dinner with my grandmother, aunts, uncles, and cousins is a HUGE affair.  My mother, brother, and I ALWAYS go to a movie on Christmas night, and spend the next day lazying around the house and playing with all our presents.

Also, we have four Christmas trees.  Yes, you read that right, FOUR.

We have the original tree, which mom started the year before I was born.  It has all the traditional ornaments — silly Hallmark ornaments, hand-made ornaments, Disney characters, and Star Trek ornaments, etc.

When I was ten or eleven, my mom decided she wanted a more elegant red-and-gold-themed tree.  So then we had two.

My brother took over managing the original tree, because he still loves buying silly ornaments, like reindeer wearing hunter’s outfits, and dancing fish, etc.  And, when I was thirteen, I started collecting ornaments for my own tree, which is a Victorian-inspired, pink and white tree.

Then, a couple years ago, Target came out with a new series of ornaments in crazy-bright colors like teal, purple, pink, and lime green, that I simply could not resist.  So I started collected ornaments for another tree.  I call it my Dr. Seuss tree.  And it is AWESOME.

My mother has also recently started collecting ornaments for a blue and silver tree, but she didn’t have enough ornaments yet to fill out of a whole tree so I didn’t take any pictures.  But next year we’ll have FIVE trees.  Yeah, we’re a little nuts.

We just love Christmas, what can I say.  We also have a side table filled with Santa Clauses:

And the fireplace mantle is lined in Nutcrackers:

We simply love the beauty of it.  We love the color and the light and nostalgia, and the new, and the elegant, and the fun.  It gives us joy, even when other things are difficult, frustrating, or depressing.  Christmas movies help too — Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Santa Clause is Coming to Town, A Year Without Santa, and the Muppets Christmas Carol are some of the best movies ever.  Oh, and The Nightmare Before Christmas (which I watch far more often than can possibly be normal) is totally and completely BRILLIANT.

Now, I know there are always complaints about Christmas becoming too commercial.  And I’m not denying that is often true, and it makes me sad.  So many people who only care about what they can get out of it.  Who spend all their time and effort making sure they get what they want, instead of reveling in the joy of giving to others — when the GIVING is seriously the BEST part.  Sometimes, I despair for the fate of this season.

But then I read things, like this short memoir-ish piece by Oindrila Mukherjee (a UH almnus) about the simple joy and beauty of snow: “My First Snowfall.”  Or I read the dozen or so articles about the “layaway angels” who go around to K-Marts and pay-off layaway accounts for needy families: here’s one such article.  Or I just pause in the act of addressing Christmas cards and really THINK about how grateful I am for my three best friends, who have on more than one occasion been the only things between me and total despair, who have on occasion been quite literally the only things keeping me alive.  And these things remind me of what is so special about Christmas.

(For a ton of really fantastic Christmas-y posts and links check out Tiffany A White’s Holiday Mash-Up!)

So I hope I can share a bit of this feeling with all of you.

So go hug your mother or father.  Tell your friends how much you appreciate them. Decorate a tree, or light a candle, or enjoy the weather.  It doesn’t matter what you are: Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, and everything in between…  This season (while perhaps initially instigated by religion) is not ONLY about religion.  The holidays are about family and friendship and beauty and joy and hope and compassion and charity, all of this in the face of despair and poverty and the hardships that seem to keep piling up year after year.  Life isn’t easy.  And this season is NOT about pretending otherwise.  It’s about giving each other the only things that make life WORTH it, despite the fact that it’s NOT and NEVER WILL BE easy.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanza, Happy Holidays, Joyful Season, or Happy/Hopeful New Year’s.  There is so much to worry about, to be afraid for, to be angry about… but there is also so much to be grateful, glad, and hopeful for too.  Let’s carry those things with us into the new year.

I love you all!

The Enchanting World of Dolls

When I was ten or eleven years old (I’m not quite sure exactly when anymore), my mother bought me a porcelain doll at a Cracker Barrel Country Store.  She was blonde with a pink dress, and I adored her.

My Very First Doll

From that first doll, I started collecting porcelain dolls.  Not the kind of priceless collection that some people can boast, but the kind of collection a Marine Corps warrant officer on a tight budget could afford to give her daughter.  My mother tried very hard to buy me nice ones, and I loved every single one she bought me. the time I was in high school, I had around a couple dozen porcelain dolls of various size and quality, and I had started to collect the collectible Barbies.  The $70-80 ones.  I had three ballet Barbies, and several fairy tale Barbies, and some in gorgeous designer dresses.

One of my favorite Collector's Barbies

After high school, for reasons unimportant here, I had to put my dolls in storage.  And many of them were ruined.  And then I stopped buying more.  But I have never lost my vast appreciation for dolls and doll-making.  It is an art form that is sometimes ignored or forgotten amid popular culture; though, thankfully, serious artists and art-lovers still appreciate it.  And sometimes I run across a truly masterful artist who makes dolls that are real, honest-to-god treasures.

Beauty and the Beast by Marina Bychkova (the one that caught me)

I wish to discuss one such artist here.  Her name is Marina Bychkova.  I came across her purely by chance on Deviantart and I consider that a moment of fantastic good luck.  After viewing of a few of her pieces on devianart, I quickly moved on to her website where the gallery is even more impressive.  This artist makes all of her dolls entirely by hand – beginning with molds she designs herself.  Her specially designed joints have absolutely amazing articulation, which allow fora myriad of life-like and elegant poses.  Her artistic nude dolls are sensual, tasteful, and beautiful.

Emerald by Marina Bychkova

Her costumed dolls are luxurious, vibrant, exquisite in their detail and design.  But, as I’ve told several people now, the real selling point on these dolls, the real crux of this artist’s talent is the beauty of the faces.  The expressions of these dolls are so beautiful, life-like and emotional that they quite literally left me breathless the first time I saw them.  There is one in particular, called Beauty and the Beast, that strikes me every time I look at her.  I swear she is going to actually shed real-life tears at any moment.

To see all of these beautiful little ladies, go to Marina’s website Enchanted Doll.  I warn you now: you may find yourself lost in her website for hours, just staring in breathless amazement.  And just in case that’s not enough, here’s her deviantart page: http://marina-b.deviantart.com.

Dunyazade by Marina Bychkova

It is possible (though not this moment, as she is not taking orders currently) to buy one of her dolls.  They are, unfortunately, too rich for my shallow pockets.  But the price is an honest representation of the quality, beauty, and worth of these dolls, and I would buy one without a moment of doubt if I was in any position to do so.  However, I can eke sufficient joy from simply going to her website again and again to stare in wonder.  Hopefully, one day I will be in a position to indulge in my long-held love for dolls, but for now, dreaming will have to be enough.

Venetian by Marine Bychkova (one of my favorites)