What I’m about to write may make it seem like I don’t like Christmas. In fact, it’s my most favorite time of year. But why is that? I used to know years ago when Christmas was all about presents and candy. But why does it remain my favorite holiday? Those reasons have certainly rode a bumpy path. It’s true that I tend to feel more melancholy in December than during any other month of the year, and my resulting contemplative tendencies are coming into play here, but even that blue feeling has altered slightly. I’ve looked forward to Christmas all year, but this year, the reasons for it were different — more personal, less influenced. Frankly, I think I’m happier now than I have been at holidays in a long time. That’s something to write about, and Listmas give me the perfect excuse to formulate my words in a nice if spontaneous order. So here are my thoughts how and why Christmas has changed for me over the years.
1. Thanksgiving > Christmas
Probably the biggest change I’ve experienced is that I look forward to Thanksgiving much more than Christmas now. Within the past several years, my family has grown considerably with the new additions of spouses, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, and so on. The dynamics of the holidays have shifted to favor large get-togethers at Thanksgiving because (1) everyone’s always free on Thanksgiving, and (2) the new families want to stay home on Christmas. A past version of myself balked somewhat at large, extended family dinners that revolved around turkey and stuffing, calling them boring and tiring, and rather unenjoyable. But I’ve come around to seeing them in a new light. I truly look forward now to seeing everyone when the spirit of family reigns at the end of November.
2. Christmas is a time to reflect rather than be Christmasey
There once was a time when I’d gleefully pull out all the Christmas decorations on the day after Thanksgiving, and, in a whirl with Christmas tunes blaring the background, I’d have the house decorated in no time flat. Lights! Trees! Stockings! Ornaments! Tinsel! And SO MUCH MORE MORE MORE! More was better. Only then there came a time when more was not better. In fact, “more” just became overwhelming and unnecessary. Now I’ve reached a fairly happy medium, and one where I like to take more time to reflect and remember rather than decorate in December. Of course, I still decorate some — the tree is up and a wreath is on the door — but my thoughts generally veer towards what was and what is yet to come at this time of year, letting go of negativity and replacing it with positivity. I don’t need a jumble of Christmas lights in my face to do that.
3. Christmas music is less important…
Let me set the record straight first — music is never NOT important. Music is the single most important thing that drives my life, without a doubt. So I’m not putting music down at all, but I’ve found that I can still live a perfectly happy life without 24/7 Christmas music playing from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. Because I was one of those people. As soon as Thanksgiving hit, I’d queue up my Christmas playlists (3 of them) on my iPod, and that was that until January 1. I didn’t let any other form of music infiltrate my ears during this time. This year, however, I don’t think I’ve fully played through even on of my playlists. I don’t feel any less merry, and you’ll still catch me humming “Christmas Time is Here” while I’m making dinner. Embodying the spirit of Christmas doesn’t necessarily require a soundtrack. It fine when it’s there, and it’s just as alright when it isn’t.
4. …but Christmas movies are more important
Growing up, my childhood winter holidays were filled with the sites of Christmas-this and Christmas-that on the TV…always….constantly, it seemed.. Once I left home, I practically revolted against any and all Christmas movies. In fact, it was not too long ago that I saw A Christmas Story for the first time (!?). And I realized at the time that maybe I was wrong in being so upset at the idea of liking Christmas movies. (I did like a couple, after all, though you’d have had to put a gun to my head to get me me admit it.) So I added to my DVD collection five holiday ot holiday-ish movies: Holiday Inn (1942), White Christmas (1954), It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), Miracle on 34th Street (1947), and A Christmas Story (1983). Watching these movies in the days before Christmas has become an important ritual. Not only do they celebrate the season, but each remind me of what’s important at Christmas. Speaking of which…
5. Keep the candy and presents
I just don’t need them! I mean, I like both, certainly, but the need for them just isn’t there. A few years ago, my family switched from doing gifts for everyone to the Secret Santa routine, and the switch has been incredibly welcome. Not only has it reduced the stress (mental and financial) of getting a large number of gifts, but also has it brought back the simply joy of gift-giving. I’d rather have a few meaningful gifts than a bunch of clutter. The same goes for candy. No longer do I stuff our stockings full of red- and green-wrapped store-bought chocolates just for the sake of having stuffed stockings. I want my holiday treats to be a little more special than that. So if I’m craving something sweet, I’ll make something sweet. Now, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that dietary changes have necessitated cutting back on sweets generally, which is always hard a this time of year. But forgoing that delectable Krackel miniature helps…at least a little.