It’s Christmastime. Two days away! We’ve been in Colorado since Friday and cabin fever has completely set in. While Dean has been able to get out and get a few runs in up the hill, I’ve been “stuck” in my parents’ condo wrangling Bruce and trying to help my mom out over multiple days of non-stop snow. I say “stuck” because truth be told, it’s pretty terrific to be in the mountains over the holidays with my parents for a white Christmas. Magical actually.
But magical venues do not immune one to the annoyances of any family holiday. This has been Bruce’s first introduction to snow, and we’ve taken it slow: brief introductions to fresh powder on the deck (tears), Dean dumping a shovel-full of snow on him on the deck (screaming), walking laps on the snowplowed access road while kicking a “loi-low” (ball) (acceptable, until I suggest touching the snow or going inside (screaming)). My mom meanwhile has been making exhaustive grocery lists, asking me indecisively what we should eat for various Christmas meals, and Facebook-ing (normal when you’re 60+ with 65 friends; her usage consists of sharing every single one of my posts within five minutes of my posting, informing me of the social life of her dental hygienist, and telling me what my college friends are up to). Between a blizzard, coddling a crabby toddler demanding to be held anytime he doesn’t feel he’s receiving adequate attention, and listening to my mom tell my dad for the 50th time on the phone that she has paid XYZ bill and he doesn’t need to, cabin fever is in full effect. Not to mention that “vacation” with small children is a huge misnomer. In short, I’m exhausted and crabby myself. Merry Christmas!
That said, I love Christmas. Passionately. More so than any other holiday. It is my favorite time of year and despite my current frustrations and need to plow through beer like it’s a Tuesday in college, I am still blissfully enjoying the break. Herein are my top ten favorite things about this glorious holiday, and the reasons this holiday always lives up to its massive expectations (unlike NYE, Valentines Day,etc.).
1. You always learn something about your family you never knew. Just when I thought I had heard it all, this afternoon my mom told us about her summer of being a camp counselor after her freshman year of college. While this memory isn’t overly exciting, the fact that her campers called her “Miss Doodles” certainly is. I’m pretty sure that much to my mom’s dismay, Dean may refer to his MIL as “Doodles” from here on out. Without being cooped up together in a snowstorm, we may never have learned this amazing momento of mom’s past.
2. The food traditions. Yeah, I know, this is a no-brainer. Everyone loves the food. I love the food traditions that I remember so intensely as a child: the gingerbread dough that mom would roll out and my sister and I would cut into shapes and then decorate, the Bacis and chocolate coins in our stockings, and the Christmas Eve fondue, among many other things. Some of these things have evolved over the years as my sister and I have gotten older, but I am always adamant about keeping some aspects of our holiday traditions food-related. And I love the knowledge that I can continue so many of these traditions in our own family for Bruce and Dean.
3. The remembrance and celebration of something bigger. I am not a hugely religious person. In fact, despite being raised Episcopalian and going to church every Sunday throughout my childhood, I don’t even know if I believe in God at this point in my life. That said, I love the story of Jesus’ birth and love the symphony of the Messiah. I love Christmas services at church. While Santa certainly has a place, I love placing greater bearing on the religious origins of this holiday which I find joyous and inspirational.
4. The lights and music. I love driving through town and seeing all the trees lit up and all the shops decorated with giant bows and Christmas cheer. I love cruising through the ritzy neighborhoods and gawking at the fantastically-decorated mansions, islands of shimmering twinkles flanked with glowing armies of angels and reindeer. Crusing along listening to Bing Crosby or Nat King Cole (or Idina Menzel or Darius Rucker this year), it feels like I’m taken back to a simpler time, transported into a Norman Rockwell painting. Christmas lights and music have the ability to take away all of the day’s stress and give you a magical world free of pain and worry.
5. The gifting. Every year we say we’re not going “big,” and every year I can’t contain myself and wind up getting and spending way more than I originally planned. I never am annoyed as I hand over that credit card, though, and I never regret any of my giving, big or small. It’s the faces of appreciation and thanks that I love, when I can tell someone dear to my heart loved their gift. It’s even better when it’s someone you don’t know. Our group adopted a family this year to support through the holiday season, and despite the fact that I’ll never meet the single mom and her two boys that we sponsored, I loved affording them a holiday that we take for granted. Similarly, my mom generously tipped the pizza guy tonight. I didn’t see him, but I could hear his voice and the initial disbelief, shock, and then sincere gratitude that he expressed. Bringing joy to someone, no matter who, is special.
6. The time with family. Yeah, I know, I’m annoyed with the fam right now, but I’m also simultaneously thrilled to spend time with them. I can’t wait for my dad to get here tomorrow. I know I’ll probably be annoyed within six hours because he’s late to the dinner table due to football or similar, but I love that we’re together. Dean won’t stop burping, but I absolutely love that he’s less than five feet away from me right now. It just kills me that my little sister can’t be here this year. She’s engaged and recently in a new job, so of course the emerging family of her own takes precedence. It’s just crazy to think about how families evolve and change as we age. Family is so special, and having a kid of your own only reminds you of the inevitable path of life and how short your time is, particularly with the people you really love.
7. The time off. Starting in grade school you get to experience the December slump. Instead of ABCs you’re making daisy chains and having cupcakes. Drawing pictures of Santa eventually morphs into incredibly stressful finals, but generally classes are lax and once you’re done with that last exam, you’re off for a good three to four (sometimes five!) weeks. In the working world, even if you don’t have any time off, the office still becomes eerily similar to that festively decorated first grade classroom. Corporate decorations emerge after Thanksgiving, the break-room is overflowing with chocolates from vendors/clients and baked goods from your boss’ wife, water-cooler small-talk becomes thirty minutes of hashing out the company holiday party scandals, and no one seems to make it to 5 PM.
8. The memories. Inevitably you start to remember or rehash memories from holidays past. Annual gingerbread house competitions with your aunt and sister (our aunt always won), playing parcheesi with mom on Christmas Eve with after-dinner drinks, the time your aunt gifted one sock to your husband because she was still knitting the other, the way Santa’s handwriting looked exactly like dad’s except for the little hooks and curlycues … every year brings a priceless new memory.
9. The movies. Another no-brainer. One of my absolute favorite traditions is watching White Christmas with my mom. I don’t think my sis likes it nearly as much, but she will usually humor us with a viewing (lots of eye rolling while we sing “Sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters!”). My second favorite is Christmas Vacation of course, particularly because it’s one the entire family will watch together and laugh at year after year. Love Actually, Home Alone, and A Christmas Story are other favorites of mine, and I also have a strong affinity for the Grinch. Another strong contender is Santa Claus with Dudley Moore and John Lithgow. “Little boy …”!
10. Christmas miracles. Something special happened this week. My future brother-in-law gave my sister a gorgeous engagement ring that they designed together. Coincidentally, Dean also gave me my engagement ring on Christmas Eve seven years ago. Even more special, my dad proposed to my mom Christmas morning in 1974. Clearly there’s a lot of love at Christmas in our house, and I hope there is in yours as well.
Happy holidays all!