CHRISTMAS IS COMING, and it’s coming soon. Holy smokes.
Given the utter lack of snow outside and lack of anything resembling a winter solstice (besides the dark) or Canadian wintery-ness in Vancouver, it’s hard to believe the Yuletide season is once again upon us. In these past few years Christmas has just kind of snuck up on me before I was ready. This year it’s been the same story–how can it be Christmas time already? I haven’t made a paper chain yet! I never placed a frantic phone call to one of my sisters to make sure we didn’t get the same things for other family members! I’ve HARDLY “ballet-danced” to the Nutcracker in my apartment! I haven’t been nearly drunk enough! I haven’t watched “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (the animated one narrated by Boris Karloff of course), “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” (narrated by Burl Ives of course), or “Mickey’s Christmas Carol“!
My lack of preparation caused me to be afraid, despite the lovely Christmas parties I have attended, and the many cookies I have prepared and eaten, and the fact that I have now read Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, that I somehow wouldn’t be able to get into the Christmas spirit in time to really celebrate the big day (which is December 24, Christmas Eve, for my family). This would have been horrible because Christmas is my absolute favourite holiday, combining so many of the things I love: my family, good friends, good food, good spirits (both emotional and liquid), beautiful music, nostalgia, MAGIC, warmth, pretty sparkly things, snow, and the traditions we have established that make Christmas an incredibly special time for my family. To be out of step with my traditional “getting into the spirit of things” preparations because I have a job now, much less time, and no VCR created a fear in my heart that I wouldn’t be able to give this time the specialness it deserves.
My anxiety was unfounded. Christmas isn’t about watching slightly creepy stop-motion reindeer (though I’ll be digging up that VHS as soon as I get to my parents’ place). Christmas isn’t even about snow (though I’m crossing my fingers for some weather magic). Christmas is a feeling. Christmas is when I can’t stop smiling because I am TOO EXCITED. Christmas is a little light being turned on inside me that makes it possible to feel like a kid again. Christmas is always, every year, an overwhelming feeling of love and gratitude.
And my traditions? They’re important to me. They shape my experience of the holidays and provide me with a sense of continuity year to year. Christmas is a time to hold these old traditions very dear, and I do. But Christmas is also a time for new traditions. For example, this year my TC and I welcomed our friends into our home for our very first Christmas party. Both my TC and I will be spending Christmas apart with our own families this year, so on Monday we also had our own pre-Christmas dinner, and exchanged presents with one another under our own little (sadly fake) tree.
And did Christmas come to us on December 19? Without snow, or a live tree, or even a day off work? As Dr. Suess wrote, the lack of a few things “didn’t stop Christmas from coming. It came. Somehow or other, it came just the same.” Greek ribs had been in the oven since the afternoon. Potatoes were mashed with cheese and garlic. Granville Island Winter Ale was sipped from novelty glasses that had the word “ALCOHOLIDAYS” printed along the rim. Presents were exchanged, the rabbit was given a carrot, and Jim Henson’s “Muppet Family Christmas” was watched on YouTube.
Our evening was merry and bright, cozy and lovely. Christmassy? Very. There’s something to be said for new traditions.
But there’s nothing like the old ones. Meeting my family at the airport (my mom is an air-travel-booking magician, so all three of us “kids” usually arrive the same day), a chilly three-hour drive from Saskatoon to my childhood home in the Prairies, fantastic food and drinks with neighbours, sleeping (or trying to) in my tiny old twin bed bathed in the glow of the yard light and listening to the dog howl at Something, being scalded by the shower if anyone else in the house turns on a tap to so much as wash a potato, re-reading all of my childhood favourite books, cross-country skiing, family photos in which we pretend to be rappers or monsters or something, and most importantly, having the BEST CHRISTMAS TREE EVER–these traditions are my Christmas.
My family and I don’t always follow ALL of the traditions and little rituals I’ve assembled in my mind every year, and some of them will likely fall by the wayside over time. One day my sisters and I will have families of our own, and our Christmasses will look different from the ones we have now. It is a loss–observing your Christmas traditions through the frosty panes of a Christmas memory instead of living them year to year–but I am comforted by the idea that my favourite things about Christmas will never be lost. Christmas is a feeling. Year after year, there will be traditions (new or old), there will be family (new or old), there will be love, and there will be much to be grateful for.
And now I’m feeling sentimental. It must be Christmas. I wish you and yours a very merry Christmas, however you love to celebrate, and I wish you the very best and happiest of Christmas feelings.
[Note: I did not coin the phrase “Christmas is a feeling”. I remember it from a song performed in the Turtleford School Christmas Concert when I was in Grade 3. I cannot remember what the song or the play was called. I believed it involved the smallest and most humble evergreen in the Christmas Forest conveying the true meaning of Christmas through the aforementioned song. In fact, now that I think of it, the song was probably called “Christmas is a Feeling”. Classic.]