Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Christmas Basket Project/The Reason for the Season

A mix CD of Christmas carols;
A collection of specially-selected Christmas stories;
A bottle of wassail (traditional English Christmas drink given to carollers who came tramping in the snow to your doorstep to spread good cheer)
A cake (lemon curd, Texas fudge) or cookies (chocolate chip, butter shortbread)
A box of soy tarts, a burner and candles for the burner (flavours include chocolate turtle brownie, caramel apple, spiced orange, caramel mocha, apple brown betty) so you can permeate your house with the smells of Christmas)
Other things (according to person) to show I love you

It was an idle thought sometime in the middle of this year. Yes, I think it was after July, when I had completed the project from hell and was at leisure to think about something NICE I would like to do. And nothing can be nicer than Christmas (Amy Grant is singing 'It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year' now and agreeing with me).

So there I was idly jotting down what I would like to go into my baskets in a really nice notebook that a friend had given me when I was going through a particularly bad spot in the project (from Hell, in case you were wondering) and wanting to throw in the towel and just walk away.

The notebook said on its cover:

that you have what it takes to make your dreams a reality

knowing that you are in control of your life - that you have the ability within you to do anything

at every opportunity that comes by accepting challenges and learning along the way.

the beautiful person that you are - giving so much hope, love and joy to those around you.

I called it my happy notebook. It was only to record happy projects. Flipping through it, I see that I used it to design the birthday cards I was making (what to write inside, what to use for artwork outside), dreams, books I would like to have (the two I see there are In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin and Moments of Being by Virginia Woolf), my Christmas card list (it was fun, fun, fun writing out the Christmas cards scattered all over the bed, making checks on my list), a list of herbs I wanted to grow (chives, basil, dill, sage, thyme, oregano, parsley) in pots. I still haven't although I did buy the herb packets. I also see a recipe for aviyal (the famous Malayalee vegetable dish) with very precise instructions, from Mary's mother, from when I was in Sungai Petani in July.

I also see what I actually wanted to put in my Christmas basket. And realise I fell short, way short of everything I had originally planned. But never mind, there's always next year.

So I started picking the stories I wanted to include and inputting them into my laptop in a folder called very originally, Christmas stories. I started picking the carols I wanted to include in my CD. Some old favourites, some new (at least to Malaysians). And I started scouring eBay for the candles.

Having months and months to prepare (although towards the end it was all a rush and blur) I took my time. A little a day. Or nothing at all. Anyway it grew and grew.

I wondered sometimes at the reactions. I didn't give it much thought. It was something I wanted to do and I usually go overboard, but what is life if not for a little exaggeration?

I baked the cakes, slow-cooked the wassail, burned the CDs, made the covers, printed out the books, took them for binding, found the appropriate bottles for my wassail, bought the baskets from a uncle at a flower shop near the house who decided to become my good friend and recognise me as a "regular" customer. All of this was fine when I had my car. It became a little more complicated without it.

However, I pushed on, pushed on. My friends were surprised and delighted.

But there were two reactions in particular. An old friend (that I hadn't seen or talked to for a long time) and an aunt who is generally left to her own devices at Christmas teared up. It meant so much more to them than gaily-wrapped packages in a pretty basket. It brought some Christmas cheer to them. Which is what I had hoped as each thing I selected was supposed to infuse you with just a little spirit. (Of course the wassail, depending on how much rum I used, could infuse you with a lot more than a little).

Yesterday I delivered my last package. The person I delivered it to cut a piece of cake (lemon curd), sampled it, put in the CD to play as background and thumbed through the stories. She told me that it was wonderful to know that she had not been forgotten.

What can I say?

Peace on earth.

Goodwill to All.

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