My memories of Christmas, growing up in Romania, are mostly sweet and warm. But my memories of the times leading up to Christmas speak of insanity. Yes, your read it right: insanity. Every single household appeared to be taken hostage by extreme cleaning (read “extreme”, like in extreme sports). And when I say extreme cleaning, I mean cleaning taken to the absurd. If you live in Romania and are getting ready for Christmas right now, you might get upset by what I am saying, but just read a different point of view; agree or not, I will not feel offended.
Let me take you on the journey of the cleaning fever that infected everyone, about ten days before Christmas. Everything had to be spotless; furniture was moved so the floors could be fully and properly cleaned, carpets were taken outside to be beaten with no mercy and released of their accumulated dust and dirt; some carpets were even washed; closets and cupboards were emptied and every item pulled out to be cleaned, washed, fixed or thrown out; bathrooms and kitchens, if not up to par, would be given a fresh coat of paint; windows were cleaned, everything was vacuumed a couple of times, just for good measure; doors were fixed, hinges were oiled. Balconies and backyards got the same treatment. Everyone in the family was given tasks – small and large – by the matron of the house (in my case my mother) and everyone worked hours and hours every day until everything got the pass of approval.
OK, I am not saying that cleaning to such extent is not a good thing. It is. I do it too, in my home and my business, and having grown up in Romania, I can assure you that I know how to clean. I have yet to find a cleaning lady who beats my cleaning skills. BUT, I do not do it at Christmas time.
On top of all the cleaning, the groceries had to be bought and brought home and the Christmas feast had to be cooked. If you have ever eaten a holiday meal at a Romanian table, you know that there must be enough food to feed a hungry battalion. I have to admit, I am guilty of this myself, as my friends comment when they come for dinner. I have shaken the “extreme cleaning” conditioning, but have retained the “cooking for 100” one.
What I am remembering though – and this is the point I want to make – is that by the time Christmas arrived and it was time to seat around the beautiful dinner table, laden with fabulous, plentiful food, in a spotless, sparkling clean and beautifully decorated home, everyone was exhausted from days and days of heavy work, cranky and ready to go to bed.
Even the Grinch got it in the end:
“Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!”
Dr. Seuss didn’t talk about extreme cleaning, that’s true, but paraphrasing the Grinch maybe Christmas is about a little more than an impeccably clean home.
So here’s my little verse, honoring the Grinch and what he learned about Christmas:
Christmas will come despite dust on the floor, despite messy cupboards and a creaky old door.