~*~ Winter Holiday Edition ~*~
Writing about Christmas
by Ann Pearlman
I stumbled on writing about Christmas. I didn’t mean to. For some time, thoughts of writing a novel about a party, women’s friendships, and compressing the time to one day tugged at my mind. These thoughts were all separate. And then, ten years ago, I was the Cookie virgin at a cookie exchange. I realized immediately that the party could be the perfect setting for a novel coalescing all three elements. The ice cream on top is the Holiday season enfolding the themes that are nascent during that time. And so the idea for the Christmas Cookie Club, a novel, was born.
When I came home from that first party, I wrote down my dream for the book. Twelve women from various backgrounds, dealing with diverse problems. There had to be issues about fertility and pregnancy and birth, and issues about death and endurance through hard times, the perennial darkness of winter.
However, I was finishing up a book tour, and then another project (a biography of a Crip gang leader…. As different from a cookie exchange as night from day) intervened.
Each December though, I returned to fleshing out the dream of the cookie club novel. I stole a way an hour or so on Christmas. Why Christmas? Because it is my birthday and dreaming of the book was a birthday present to myself.
Amazing how we forge ahead with projects without full awareness of the factors that motivate us, because I did not make the connection between writing a novel about Christmas and the fact that it was my birthday. I didn’t connect those dots until interviewers asked me why a novel about Christmas and I faced all my ambivalence about the holiday. As any adult whose birthday is on Christmas will tell you, it’s a difficult birthday. No one wants to be bothered when they’re busy with the requirements and pressures of the holiday. When I became a mother, my children’s excitement about the holidays dwarfed any interest in my birthday, which was so much in the way we couldn’t even figure out when to celebrate it. I thought about moving it to mid June, but then I gave birth to a daughter that day!
Such a change from when I was a child and thought the entire country was celebrating my birthday. My family, determined that I wouldn’t feel ignored by the holiday, made the day magical. My grandmother, who also had a grandmother born on Dec. 25, told me that for her, Christmas celebrated the birth of every baby and the importance of each one of us. Now to make the holiday season both more exciting and more complicated, my family was Jewish. My grandmother had embraced my grandfather’s people and religion, but shared her own interpretation of Christmas with her family and friends. So the season celebrated Chanukah, Christmas, and my birthday.
The cookie club contained the best of my childhood Holidays. The love and family friendship between the women were obvious. Because we take turns telling the story of the cookie that is always emblematic about the year, we’re aware of each other’s lives and appreciate our strength and enormous skills and talents. This openness creates bonding and love. The joy, celebration, and excitement are the best of the holiday. The cookies themselves are from the heart, not from a store. The fact that we donate to a charity during the bleakest time of the year enhances the importance of making something for anonymous others.
As 2008 started I could feel the country tumble economically, to fray at its edges. Warnings about another depression increased as the housing bubble burst, as companies closed, and people became unemployed. It affected us most harshly in Michigan. The novel about light regardless of dark times, people’s spirit to endure and enjoy, pulling together in spite of it all and giving to others beckoned, a spark of love in harshness.
I determined to finish it before the new year, hoping its message would be a salve for some of us. I wrote every day from Thanksgiving until Jan 2, each and every day. On my birthday, I wrote the acknowledgements, honoring all those who helped me.
So I write about the Christmas because it can be such a time of love, giving, family and community. In spite of all the darkness we need this beacon of light.
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Thank you Ann for this inspiring post. I love the idea of your book and the tie in cookbook. Christmas is my favorite time of year, but then again, it's not my birthday :) We have friends with that birthday and know how hard it can be to celebrate it properly during such a busy time of year. Anyone wanting more information about Ann or her books can stop by her website http://annpearlman.net/
Thanks to all you loyal readers out there. You know who you are. And thanks to all who are new to my blog. Welcome and I hope you enjoy. I wish you all a very happy and healthy holiday season.
Kristin *<( : )