Did you know that the 12 days of Christmas actually begins Christmas day? According to Wikipedia, in most Western Church traditions Christmas Day is the First Day of Christmas and the Twelve Days are 25 December – 5 January. While a lot of my friends have taken down their trees and decorations and already have the presents sorted and tucked away in their new homes, I’m still holding onto Christmas. I don’t know what it was exactly about this year but it went QUICKLY. Maybe it was because this was my first year with a whirling dervish of a baby boy to run after or perhaps it was the sickness that took me out at the knees and landed me on the bench for a week during the thick of the festivity. I suspect though, that it simply couldn’t ever have lasted long enough. I’ve been waiting for this year for a long time and I wanted to savor every cookie induced tantrum filled moment.
The last few holiday seasons B.H, or before Henry, were a bit odd for me. My actual Christmas cheer and the kind that you can pour seemed to enjoy an inverse relationship. As I looked at Christmas from my suddenly adult eyes I panicked and poured another cup of hot buttered rum. As a person somewhat obsessed with pomp & circumstance and vigilant about maintaining tradition, December presented a month of quandaries. It was like going to Disneyland and finding that you are too tall to ride all of the good rides. What is the point of gingerbread house decorating when you’re a type A perfectionist hoping to compete with other Instagrammers, rather than a kid about to lose your shit because you’re so excited about your candy covered winterscape creation? There isn’t a whole lot of magic in a midnight alarm to fill your husband’s and dog’s stockings to surprise them Christmas morning when neither thinks that a fat, jolly bearded man snuck in to do so. Christmas had flat lined for me as a young adult. It reminded me of my “old” age and my childhood left behind. I spent a month wondering what to buy for other adults who could buy themselves whatever they needed the same minute that they wanted it and get it shipped to their front door 2 days later, and I was struggling.
Before I am called a Grinch, something I have accused the husband of many times before, I will assure you that I fought the good fight. I focused on the nostalgic smells and patterns of my childhood- rolling dough, cutting shapes, sprinkling swaths of glitter. I aimed for thoughtful, personal gifts and sang Christmas carols that made me feel connected to the spirit of Christmas (I mean, who doesn’t get chills during the bridge of “Mary Did You Know?”) I spent time telling stories, laughing and awkward silencing with my big, crazy, divorced, re-married, divorced again, “4 houses in one day for every holiday” family. By all accounts I probably looked like my same sweet self, crafting meticulously color coded Christmas lists and enforcing any activity my family had ever done in the month of December as a non-negotiable annual tradition. But while I soldiered on, trying to preserve the manically magical idea of Christmas I had held ever since I was a kid, I knew I would only really get back there through the eyes of my own kids.
I envy those who don’t need to go through intense pain, body disfiguration and months of horrid sleep to maintain the magic in their holiday season. For me, it’s an experience that has paid dividends over the last 30 days or so. Seeing Santa (nice far away and in books, terrifying up close), eating Christmas cookies (ecstasy, quickly followed by the aforementioned tragedy and frustration of “gone”) and watching the flickering lights of Christmas eve church service (mesmerizing, but not as great as pulling all the hymnals out of the chair backs) are renewed experiences through my child’s perspective. Witnessing these moments have been some of the best parts of my year and I am not ready to let them go. I know that every year from now on will bring with it new reactions, good and bad, to this red and green covered charade that we call Christmas in America.
One of the quickest ways to bring pin pricking tears to the corners of my eyes is Linus’ little voice reminding Charlie Brown, “And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid…that’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown.” The “sore afraid” gets me every freaking time. If I ever needed to cry onstage I might play a recording of it into invisible headphones. Seems better than the old “poke a hole in your pocket and pinch yourself” trick we learned in high school drama. Linus’ voice is a quick and powerful, deep stab to the heart type reminder to stop and appreciate what and who I have and give thanks for them. Henry’s face is the same. Every time I look at him, I know there is a God. This was an especially wonderful ace in my pocket over the last couple of months. I truly do not care about my Christmas lists any longer and I am hereby assuring everyone that all I really want is a pair of socks and an orange in my stocking on Christmas morning. That, and the privilege of watching him.
So I’m leaving my tree up for a while. I’m cherishing this year and my renewed wonder. I’m celebrating all 12 days of Christmas. There are about 20 totes of Christmas décor and lights that will wait until December 6th, or 16th, or March to go back in the attic. This party isn’t over until the 3 dozen extra dark chocolate salted caramels in the fridge are eaten with a twinkling tree and Christmas Vacation on in the background. Who’s with me???