The Thirteenth

The last day of Christmas is thirteen days after Christmas day.  We call the day "The Thirteenth" (Þrettándinn) and it is celebrated in a small way.  We have bonfires, parades with elves and trolls and all kinds of strange beings.  This is also the day to fire up the last remaining fireworks.  Our Julelads (Jólasveinar), all thirteen of them have left, one every day since Christmas day and then, when they have all left, Christmas is all over.

I remember Christmases of my childhood with fondness.  My memories are mostly all muddled together and it's hard to distinguish one Christmas from another.  But one I do remember particularly well.

My sister and I were probably around six and seven years old.  This was in the days before we had overdrafts and credit cards, when ones wages just had to stretch till the end of the month.  My parents must have very broke, because instead of the usual expensive traditional Christmas dinner, we had the very inexpensive and traditional Meat soup (Kjötsúpa).  We only got one gift from my parents that year, and although we must have had a few other gifts from uncles and aunts, this one is the only one I remember.  It was the kind of toy one would expect to find in a gas station, 4 very cheap plastic bowling pins with a metal rod through them, on a stand and one ball to knock them down.  We were a little puzzled, since we were used to receiving one gift each from our parents.  But they, probably horribly guilt ridden, seemed to be really excited by this, obviously very cheap, toy and got down on the floor and started to played with us.  And they made it exciting and fun and we played all evening.  We had so much fun, I'll never forget it.  It wasn't until years later that I realized how terribly broke they  must have been and most important of all: That the best gift that children can receive is their parents undivided attention.

I do not remember the most expensive gift they ever gave me.  Not at all.  I couldn't even guess at it.  That's not to say that I didn't receive many very nice Christmas gifts from them.  They were very good at giving us very nice things even if they never were rich.  But that cheap plastic thing is the one I remember best.  I think we need to remember sometimes that money doesn't really matter as much as we pretend it does.  Most of my pleasure these days are not expensive.  Most of them cost very little and some cost nothing at all.  This year I plan to enjoy as much as I can, all the free things in life.  I will feed the birds, gaze at the sky and look for the Northern Lights.  I'll admire the sunset, pick wild flowers, visit old friends and take long walks in the woods, along the river or on the beach.  It's going to be a year to remember.

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