When we first broached the idea with friends about going away this weekend, I acknowledged that in some ways it seemed like not the best timing. “I know every weekend in December is really busy with parties, plus there’s always Christmas shopping or baking or decorating to do….” I said tentatively. “But do you think it might work out to go away the second weekend in December anyway?”
And in some ways, as the date approached, it continued to seem like a silly idea. After we’d agreed it could be fun to be in Portland instead of home this past weekend, party invitations started arriving via snail mail and email, and I realized we’d miss out on some key social events. I looked at my Christmas preparations list and saw how much still needed to be done – not just the inevitable gift-shopping but also the card-writing and candy-making and Christmas tree-purchasing. I wondered why we didn’t pick a wide-open weekend sometime amidst the tedium of late January instead.
But there was still a sneaking suspicion that this could be a great weekend to go away. And it was. Holiday spirit abounded in Portland, and the city glowed with glittery ornamentation in a way that our quiet suburban town just can’t match. We toured a Victorian mansion decorated for a Civil War-era Christmas; we shopped at bustling downtown stores as part of a Downtown Holiday Stroll, and we viewed an exhibit of gingerbread houses.
Then, inspired by all the clever gingerbread architecture we’d seen, the four kids in our group made their own gingerbread houses. After dinner, we strolled to the Old Port to see the colorful lights on the outsides of buildings downtown as well as the pretty wreaths and somewhat more discreet ornamentation on our neighbors’ doors.
Rather than pulling us away from the holiday spirit, going away actually seemed to add to it. But it wasn’t only because of all the festivities. If I had stayed home for the weekend, I would have done a lot of cooking and some housecleaning and a little bit of shopping. Instead, we did a lot of walking throughout the city, ate some wonderful food, learned a little bit of history at the Victorian mansion, and had a great visit with our guests. Since we didn’t have a lot on the schedule, the kids could take all the time they wanted decorating their gingerbread houses, and when they were done, there was still nowhere else we had to be, so they went outside to toss a football around.
I’ve often wished our holiday season involved a little bit more time for nature and reflection and a little bit less time going to parties and addressing Christmas cards. Yet I wouldn’t want to do without the parties and cards and other holiday minutiae altogether. They’re part of the season also. But being out of town gave me the opportunity to focus on some of the aspects of the season that I tend to neglect: time outdoors, quality time with friends.
On Friday night after dark, I stood out on the balcony looking at the full moon over Casco Bay, with the masts of sailboats lined with holiday lights twinkling from the harbor below. It was a new perspective on the holiday season. And just like the rest of the weekend, it made stepping out of our usual holiday-season routine for a couple of days seem like a wonderful idea.