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Merry Christmas in the country

Elaine Froese for Progressive Dairyman Published on 12 December 2016

If I were to ask you about the top 10 things that make a great Christmas celebration for you, what would you answer?

Most families I work with want to maintain family harmony or get back on track again as “a happy family.” Dr. Nikki Gerrard’s research of farm families found that one of the ways families keep resilient or strong is through celebration.

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Recently, I met a family who decided it was high time to re-institute monthly Sunday dinners at the home farm. This was a chance for farmers and non-farmers to keep connected as a family and have a real thread of conversation to keep “in the loop” about farm activities.

Everyone is proud of the family’s multi-generation farm, and they want the legacy of happy farm memories to continue.

Christmas, for you, may be about making memories. Sometimes our expectations are not met, and yet we can still be content and grateful for the celebration that actually transpired.

One Christmas in New Zealand, we were embraced by a farm family who gave us stockings filled with New Zealand specialties, a church service and a delicious meal.

The delightful part for the kids was seeing Gramps shoot a rabbit and skin it. This event was not on my list of, “This has to happen to be a great Christmas memory.”

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Sometimes we just have to let go and live in the present moment. If you don’t have huge expectations of perfection, you might be surprised at the simple pleasures of celebrating together that bring you joy.

Richness in relationship is very important to me. That’s why I just took down last year’s Christmas photos that were encroaching on the wall space of a favorite oil painting. People come into my home and review the faces on the wall to identify him or her – or a connection to a familiar visage.

We are all longing for connection.

Gerrard’s research also showed that the more resilient farmers stayed connected to their community and each other. Sadly, there are fewer “friendly” farmers, according to some interviews I have done recently with farm managers challenged to expand their land base.

The older rural etiquette of treating neighbors with kindness and respect is being eroded. People who rent land for two decades are not necessarily the ones given first right of refusal to purchase the soil they have nurtured for many harvests. Some neighbors don’t have time to chat anymore.

What kinds of connections are you longing for this month?

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I smile inwardly when people ask, “Are you ready for Christmas?” as if it is a badge of some weird martyrdom-type honor to say, “I will never get it all done.” Happy people really don’t care what the house looks like and whether the cookies are off Martha Stewart’s recipe collection. Families are longing to linger at the table of hospitality and friendship. Christmas will come “ready or not.”

Sadly in our neighborhood, lifelong friends have moved west or north to the city, and some have stopped calling for a visit. Maybe it is time to be intentional about re-connecting to family and friends.

A phone call or text is so easy, yet so many people don’t decide to reach out and communicate the invitation to share life and make new memories.

10 tips to celebrate connection this Christmas

  1. Invite a foreign student or single person from your community to share a meal, coffee or Christmas at your home.

  2. Ask your local Christmas cheer board what day they need you to help wrap gifts and donate practical gifts, especially for men. Help out at the food bank. We hope to help serve at the Christmas Day community dinner that serves people who normally would be celebrating solo.

  3. Bake cookies with your grandchildren and box them in the freezer for the parents as a surprise.

  4. Go through the winter hat and mitts collection and see what you can recycle to the local thrift store.

  5. Call a young mother (daughter-in-law) with your offer to spend three hours watching her children while she attends to some needed self-care. Blow out [or shovel] someone’s lane secretly.

  6. Ask a widow or widower if their family is coming home for Christmas. If she or he is slow to answer, make sure you pick them up to spend time at your home.

  7. Visit Buy nothing at Christmas and be thankful for all the material gifts you enjoy. Write a note of appreciation to each of your children for the delight they bring to your life and why they are special to you. If the kids are causing you grief, write that child a letter of encouragement with your vision for their future.

  8. Take out lots of great home decorating magazines from your library like Real Simple and re-purpose your pinecones, candles and rosehips growing in the ditch.

    Have some fun playing with natural objects and finding treasures buried in your home. The mall parking lot is way too crowded at this time of year; avoid the hassle of crowds and enjoy “putzing” with what you already have.

  9. Call your best friend who lives too far away and have tea with her while you both enjoy a chat on the phone or the delight of Skype or FaceTime.

  10. Celebrate fun things with your farm family. Cut the talk about business and move the heavy decisions or family business meeting to Dec. 26. Decide to just be a family and let go of the business conversations for the moment.

    You are creating a legacy of good memories. The snow forts, pond skating, the sleigh rides, the winter marshmallow roasts, the log stacking … whatever your family decides to do just for fun’s sake. Do it!

Merry Christmas and God’s peace to all.  end mark

Elaine Froese, CAFA, CHICoach, facilitates courageous conversations with farm families who care about legacy. Visit Elaine Froese to buy her books (if you must buy something for Christmas). Like her on Facebook at “farm family coach.”

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