There is something cathartic about winter. It’s like the year, and all its complexity has been frozen, santitized, and swept clean. Winter wraps the year up in neat little packages and bows, as if to say, this is what you’ve done this year, and this is the sum of all your investments, far and wide. A sort of annual report card, in a sense.
I guess it’s Christmas that does that more than anything. You see those people you only see once or twice a year, and you feel you somehow have to give account for your life thus far. God forbid you only have the same things to say as last year. And so it goes, your year, packaged up succintly in dinner table talking points.
Christmas was a strange one this year. It didn’t help that it was about eighty degrees all week, and people wore their shorts to Christmas dinner. I guess the weather was fitting for how I felt about the holiday overrall this time. I didn’t even realize it was Christmas until about two weeks before. I had been busy out of state plugging away in a sort of art house for the previous several months. When the date for my holiday plane ticket rolled into view, I barely noticed. It didn’t even hit me until I saw the wreaths in the airport. Oh yes, I thought, it really is Christmas.
Being the quintessential starving artist, I announced that I would not be giving gifts this year. This was met with a chorus of resigned acceptance. Sorry, guys, next year will be better. So, I missed the rite of Christmas shopping. And busy as a work at home writer, I don’t think I heard a Christmas song all season.
I went to stay with my sister, whose Christmas fared no better. In her first year as a full-time working mom, she hadn’t quite got the balance of motherhood and career together yet. She didn’t get to Christmas shopping until…oh, say, the 23rd or so. Then she did several shopping trips, coming home somewhere around midnight, with still not the right gifts, and falling into bed mumbling, “Christmas is for kids.” Then she would get up a few hours later, do her morning workout, and off to work she’d go. The lights are still in a bin out on the front stoop, waiting to be hung, and from what I hear, the six year old orchestrated the tree decorating a few days before I got there.
The night of Christmas Eve, she passed out at 1 am, barely dropping the shopping bags on a heap on the bedroom floor. And the kids were sound asleep, happily dreaming of Santa and his sleigh. So, her husband and I spent the wee hours wrapping bikes, and dollhouses and Nintendos, and those weird rubber animals called amebos, I think. We went to bed around five, and the kids were up at six, and the in-laws arrived at eight, with brightly wrapped gifts and groceries for a lavish Christmas breakfast. I stayed in bed. They weren’t my in-laws. Oh, the joys of being single.
I arrived to the party just in time to do the dishes, and see the in-laws off. Then our own parents arrived and we did it again. I didn’t give any gifts, and it looked like no one else had a lot of time to shop either. I’ve got a stack of gift cards to redeem. When her in-laws returned for an evening dinner, we were spent. We couldn’t even fake it. So, we were all relieved when the 26th rolled around and we could actually get some sleep.
Now that it’s Monday after Christmas weekend and life is back to normal, I have never been happier for a holiday to be over. But, I think I missed something this year. I missed the sort of release of a year reflected. I went through the motions, of course, but something was missing. I think it was the cold.
The cold adds something to Christmas. Without cold, Christmas is just an expensive tradition involving way too much food. I don’t know if it’s a mark of getting older, but I am starting to rather dislike Christmas.
We fight so hard to keep Christmas recognized, but really, is it worth it? This year, it was just a weird day in the middle of a coldless winter.