Christmas gives me the shits. Or at least it used to. The music, the colors, the intensity in which it is rammed down our throats starting in October, and then persists for weeks after Christmas, as businesses attempt to squeeze every last penny out of already broke consumers – It’s all so very forced, fake, annoying and stressful. If I think about it this way, Christmas still gives me the shits.
But looking back many, many (many) years ago, I can still remember when there was a genuine magic surrounding it.
As a young girl, we had a tradition of going to a dinner party on Christmas Eve at the house of a very well-to-do, elderly European couple. Their house was always decorated beautifully, with white twinkle lights interlacing the fresh garlands draped around every room, while an enormous Christmas tree stood waiting for us to light the tiny candles perfectly spaced on its sweeping branches. Closing my eyes, I can still the delicate scent of the narcissus plants blooming on the windowsills. After eating a fancy dinner, we would gather around the tree and sing songs while the candles were lit. Then, as we drove home, I would look up at the stars, hoping for a glimpse of Santa’s sleigh. It was pretty freaking magical.
Eventually we stopped going, and the reality of celebrating any holiday in a divorced household set in. For me this meant splitting holidays between parents, and always, always feeling guilty about whoever was alone, regardless of what they said. Christmas, and all of its cheer, quickly became enemy número uno. A mere mention of it would leave me scowling with an intensity so strong, Scrooge himself would have told me to lighten up.
And then I married a Christmas elf. He even has one pointy ear (seriously).
Now this isn’t your run of the mill Christmas elf, but rather a tall, handsome, Cuban Christmas elf, with an affinity for syrup and a strong enough sense of self-preservation to back the eff off when it came to all things red and green. And over time, he showed me there is magic yet to be had. He also knocked me up (twice), which helped speed the process along.
Over the last 10 years, he has taught me Christmas doesn’t have to be flashy. It doesn’t have to be the loud, aggressive, all-encompassing consumer-driven horror show it’s morphed into for adults.
Instead, Christmas can be simple. Pretty lights on a house are pointed out, but not every time. A special hot chocolate is enjoyed while we laugh about something that happened earlier in the year, but not in a pushy way. A gift or two, placed under our tiny living Norfolk Pine that goes without decorations. And food. Let’s not forget to mention the importance of food, shared with people you love.
And just like that, a tiny, simple tradition has formed, one which we are both excited to share with our daughter. As she grows, I’m sure our tradition will shift. It will likely become a little more flashy, a little more…well, annoying (I’m not FULLY rid of my Scrooge-like ways). We will probably join the tree murdering masses and, depending on the amount of egg-nog consumed, might expose her to (gasp) Christmas music. But no matter what, we will teach her that the real beauty and magic of Christmas comes when you strip away all the reindeer shit, and keep it simple.