"Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe help to make the season bright." (The Christmas Song)
That maybe true, but Christmas ceased being one of my favourite holidays when I got married. Not by any fault of my husband, who goes to great lengths to spoil me every year, or his family, who are always kind and welcoming. But from the moment I got married, Christmas began to dwindle from a pleasure to a chore, more and more so each year.
These days, the thought of decorating – which once filled me with glee- now leaves me exhausted. I no longer picture a twinkling tree adorned with glittering ornaments, I picture the struggle of finagling it into its stand and the tedium of rewrapping all the decorations and putting them away for another year. Why bother?
Christmas itself has become a tedium of errands, with my husband and I spending both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day running from house to house to celebrate with both sides of our respective families. I used to look forward to the time off to celebrate and then spend the next few days sleeping and binge eating leftover turkey and cookies. Christmas is no longer a time of rest and binge eating, with all the running around we have to do, most of the food is picked over by the time we get to each place and by the end of the day I'm exhausted and starving.
So this year my husband really shouldn't have been shocked when I broached the topic of not decorating or getting a tree.
“I just want to pretend that Christmas isn't happening this year. We could just pretend it's an unusually full weekend of family obligations with presents and then move on.”
My husband of course, thought I needed an infusion of Christmas spirit, and fought for a tree. Not wanting to be Captain Scrooge McKillJoy, I relented and my husband brought home a lovely little tree. It looks beautiful, and I appreciate his attempt to keep my Christmas spirit alive, but every time I look at it, all I can think about is what a pain in the ass it's going to be to take it down.
There is only one place on this Earth, where the Christmas spirit can still be summoned up from the depths of my holiday blackened soul, and that's at my mother's house.
Now, the Christmas spirit at my mother's house has itself taken a beating over the years, one of my sisters is now Jewish and understandably, various changes have been made to accommodate the difference in spiritual beliefs. Personally, I'm all for it. I'm not a church goer or bible pusher, I don't care if it's called Christmas or The Holiday Festival of Trees and Lights. (I actually prefer the second one, despite its making shouting holiday greetings a little more complex). Christmas was never about the birth of Christ for me, so getting rid of the title is something I can get behind. (Of course, this isn't for everyone and you won't see me trying to push this through Congress. But in our house, it makes perfect sense). Never the less, Christmas at my mother's house has stayed unrelentingly joyful.
There's something about being in that house, specifically about being around my mother that stokes the fires in my heart. The other night I went over to help her wrap presents (that's one of the few good things about working in retail – I've perfected the art of present wrapping), and within twenty minutes of being there, I was mindlessly humming Christmas tunes as I wrapped and curled ribbons. I was like an elf in Santa's workshop.
My mother is a powerful being. Within her lies the true spirit of Christmas, whatever that is. But I like to think of it as family, and pure, unbridled joy. God bless my mother in law and all her family, but they just can't embody it the way she does. My mother in law tries too hard, insisting that we must be joyful every minute, pushing games and chatter at us as though we'll never have another happy moment again. There's nothing pushy about my mom, and her house at Christmas. It's warm and tender, at moments punctuated with squeals of delight and peels of laughter, at others calm and peaceful. There is no frenzied push for perfect holiday memories, filling every moment with games and activity. Instead, there's an enjoyment of each moment as it happens, whether its the calm and quiet of a stolen nap, curled up on the couch with my husband beneath a blanket, or the excitement of watching someone open the perfect gift.
Maybe as time goes on, my Christmas spirit will decay to the extent that I can no longer appreciate it, but I hope for the opposite. I hope I can learn the secret of my mother's spirit, and the joy that resides at her house on Christmas. I hope I can learn to stand above the tedium of far too much family in far too small of a time frame and find a space for peace and joy for my husband and I, a special place within the chaos that can make it all bearable. Either that, or we'll have to start a new tradition – Hawaii!