I am absurdly in love with Christmas—not the Day so much as the month (or two!) leading up to it. I even love sitting in last-minute-gift-rush traffic in the mall parking lot (as long as I can listen to carols). I know, I’ve got it that bad.
If I walk into the mall on October 29th and it’s decorated for Christmas—I get excited! I am not one of those grinchy people who bemoan the commercialization of Christmas and its imperialistic dominance over almost a quarter of the retail calendar. 1. Because how can you really be pissed about 2-3 months of love, merriment, and good cheer? 2. Because Halloween and Thanksgiving are fine, but “Thriller” and “Monster Mash” don’t need two months of playtime on the radio, and, I might add, there is NO such thing as Thanksgiving music. 3. Because I know the difference between Christmas the Hallmark holiday and the real Christmas—and both are worth celebrating, in their own way.
There is just so much I want to do leading up to Christmas! I need at least two months to fit it all in—and even then I don’t get to. When Maggy was living in a place where she had continuous access to the internet (ie. not Africa), we’d spend months before Christmas exchanging scores of emails detailing all the festive activities we’d need to cram into the 12 days she’d be home for the holidays: Bake and decorate Christmas cookies. Shop for gifts. Make gingerbread houses. Go for brisk early morning walks (and talks) and come home with chilly hands and faces to make waffles for Mom and Dad. Watch White Christmas, A Christmas Story, Miracle on 34th Street, and the cartoon version of Frosty the Snowman we taped off TV twenty years ago…complete with 80’s commercials. Cut down and decorate the tree. Build fires. Drink cocktails. The list goes on and on. (I’d continue, but so many of them involve food and eating…it’s just embarrassing.)
Mom and Dad have their reasons for not loving Christmas with quite so much child-like glee as Mags and I do. Dad has to work on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (such is the life of a priest). And with Dad MIA, Mom has to plan the menus, shop, cook, clean, wrap presents, and prepare the house for guests pretty much all by herself. (Sorry, Mom. But now that we’re older—we help!)
But, as much as they say Christmas is no fun, I distinctly remember Dad calling me from the car during exams my senior year of college and leaving my favorite Christmas carol (Chanticleer’s rendition of “In the Bleak Midwinter”) at an obscene volume on my voicemail. And Mom, admit it, you love Christmas dress shopping with us, and planning our great hors d’oeuvre extravaganza. And they both will admit how much they love trimming the tree to the brassy tones of our family’s favorite Christmas CD—A Festival of Carols—even if it’s just because their daughters love it so much.
I can’t speak for other people’s religious traditions, but as Episcopalians, we have over a month of time in our church calendar (we call it Advent) devoted to waiting and watching for Christmas. Even the church acknowledges that this event requires more preparation than others, albeit something more along the lines of prayerful, thankful contemplation than frantic shopping.
Let’s face it. It’s a BIG day—whether it’s because you get to be with your family whom you never see, or because you get to be in the kitchen whipping up the most delicious food of the year, or because you take the time to truly remember loved ones who are gone, or because you believe it’s a symbolic celebration of the birth of Christ. However you look at it, we could all afford to spend a little more time doing these things.
To be honest, I must admit that Christmas Day is actually my least favorite part of Christmas. Who cares about opening presents? At this age, I always pretty much know what I am getting (thanks in advance for the roasting pan, Mom). And the simple fact of it actually being Christmas Day means there’s no more Christmas to look forward to. It always gets dark so fast and the day is over before we can really grasp that is has arrived. But luckily, we only have about 8 months to wait before Christmas is forced into our midst again by Macy’s, Costco, and Williams-Sonoma. And I, for one, am glad.
Here’s a recipe to get the month started! Soft, delicious ginger cookies that taste like Christmas incarnate.