The Case For An Early Christmas
I’ve used the term “dumpster fire” on a few different occasions to describe the year 2020. I’m an optimist, and I’ll be the first to concede that there has definitely been some good in the last eleven months. For me personally, there have been a handful of glittering, shining moments that I am most grateful for … but all in all, I’d have to say those flames are rising high over the lip of that big, stinky, metal box. Dumpster fire. For the most part, that just fits, so I’m sticking with it.
Like so many others, I’m a big fan of Christmas. I’ve loved the holiday since I was a little girl. Every year, my mind drifts back to an early Christmas morning the year I was seven. I was at my dad’s house, asleep in the room I’d grown up in. I remember opening my eyes and seeing through the parted curtains hanging over my window what I believed to be the shape of Santa’s sleigh and his famous reindeer climbing up through the dark pre-dawn sky. I never told anyone because I knew it wasn’t real, but I so wanted to hold onto the sweet, wonderful feeling I’d woken up with that morning, and I didn’t want anyone to shatter the realness of that dream for me.
My grandmother, Mimi, had four girls. When they were young, she took them to see the Nutcracker ballet. I don’t know when this took place for the first time, but when I was four, it was my turn to go. For many years, it was something she and I did, just the two of us. My mom and aunts handed the tradition off, and Mimi would pick a Sunday matinee as close to Christmas as she could get. Mom—who has always been an incredible seamstress—would always make me a dress, and Mimi and I made a whole day out of it. We’d get dressed up, have our pictures taken, go downtown and ooh and ahh at all the theater goers in their pretty clothes. We’d see a one o’clock performance, then we’d bundle up—it was Denver, so it was oftentimes cold—and we’d walk from the theater to either Josephina’s or the Old Spaghetti Factory for dinner. We’d window shop on the way, admiring the wintry displays in all the storefronts, and walk beneath the pine garland strung with crisp, white twinkle lights while listening to the clop, clop, clop of the horses pulling the carriages through the city streets. Downtown Denver at Christmas time—especially when I was a kid—was magical.
Mimi and I saw the Nutcracker more than forty times together. When I got older, my cousins started joining us. When I had a daughter—my beautiful Maya—she became part of the tradition, and Mom started making dresses for her to wear. When Maya was eight, she danced with a prep school called Belliston Ballet. They put on a professional grade Nutcracker performance every Thanksgiving weekend. For two years, Maya auditioned, and both times, she was chosen to play the part of a mouse. Her second year, she was asked to fill in for one of the boys who was unable to perform. They tucked her waist-length hair into a short boy’s wig, set her up with a dark velvet green pantsuit and off she went. Mimi saw those performances as well.
Maya has since hung up her ballet slippers, and we lost Mimi in 2013, but our tradition has continued. For the last several years, we’ve attended the Nutcracker put on by another ballet company performed at a high school just a few blocks down the street from the house in which I was sleeping that Christmas morning I thought I saw Santa. Life is funny like that sometimes.
Another tradition I look forward to every year is a Christmas dinner hosted by my parents at their house up in the mountains. As they all tend to do, our family began to expand over time. Kids grow up and start having kids of their own. There are more spouses, in-laws, significant others—and with all of that comes a mixture of different traditions and gatherings—and it gets harder and harder to find one night to come together that fits everyone’s schedule. In answer to this dilemma, my parents came up with Surf & Turf. When it began, it consisted of them, me, my stepbrother and sister, our spouses, and our children. No matter what other celebrations went on for the holiday, our immediate family always gathered and ate steak, shrimp and crab legs together the Saturday before Christmas. This tradition, like the Nutcracker, has also changed over time. I missed out on five years of Surf & Turf when my family and I lived away from Colorado, but it was reinstated as soon as we got back. Surf & Turf is special. It’s my parents. It’s Evergreen. It’s Christmas. I look forward to it every year.
But this is 2020. Remember the whole dumpster fire thing? Those damn flames are burning bright. The Nutcracker isn’t happening this year. And, sadly, it seems as though Surf & Turf is in question, too. Not only that, I was told this was the year I had to start taking care of myself and eat better, so I can’t even use those flames to toast a pile of marshmallows and make an obscenely huge batch of s’mores to help soothe away my sadness. Thank god for sugar free chai tea.
The last third of the year has always been my favorite. As much as I’ve always been enamored with Christmas, it’s the build-up to the holiday season that really makes me happy. September 1st hits, and I feel myself coming alive a little bit more. October shows up, and I’m in heaven. I’m not sure what it is about October, but I absolutely love this month. A good portion of the population celebrates Halloween in all its spooky, marvelous glory. It builds up all month long. The leaves change, the temps get cooler. I love the colors, the smells, the hoodies, and drinking hot tea out of my favorite mugs all day long. There’s just something special, something amazing in the air, a feeling that I can’t quite describe. And then November comes. Yes. November. I savor these three months every single year, straight through Thanksgiving. In my opinion, there is no better time of the year.
I’ve never been a Black Friday shopper. I’m not interested in hunting down bargains or dealing with crowds of people. Especially the kinds of crowds that can be found on Black Friday. I’ve never had a ton of money to throw around. I’ve always had a set list of people I wanted to buy for, and a very limited budget. Shopping is hard enough without adding the threat of bodily injury and the possibility of a full-blown panic attack. My Black Friday consists of sleeping in, then staying in my pajamas all day. I eat pumpkin pie for breakfast, and then I decorate for Christmas. The tree comes out, along with the ornaments I’ve collected since I was a little girl. The stockings Mom needlepointed, and the scented candles. I go back and forth between Christmas music and holiday movies, pull out my big snowflake shaped cookie cutter, and crush peppermint candies to sprinkle on top of the warm candy cane cookies I will soon be pulling from the oven. Since I moved into the first roommate free apartment I called home, that’s been my process. The day after Thanksgiving is the time to welcome Christmas. That’s been … well … a whole lot of years now, and it works for me.
I’ve had to make peace with missing the ballet. This bums me out in a big way, but I have easy access to Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite and a stellar memory. I haven’t been able to uncurl my fingers from Surf & Turf quite yet, but I’m trying to prepare myself for that loss as well. So many plans have gone out the window this year, so that process I told you about earlier? Yeah, I’ve decided to toss that out, too. To hell with waiting until after the turkey has been served. I need Christmas now. I need the tree. I need pine scented candles and my Tinker Bell tree topper. I need my quilted advent calendar and my holiday beanie babies. I’m going to savor these last few days of October. I’m going to roast my pumpkin seeds and pull as much out of the rest of autumn as I possibly can, but I’ve made an executive decision. I’m putting my fuzzy sock covered foot down, and I’m not entertaining the thought of any arguments. This year, in my house, the Christmas season will start a month earlier than normal. I’m not waiting for Black Friday, y’all.
2020 really has been one hell of a year. Here’s my advice if you’re inclined to listen to such things. Take a deep breath and try to hang in there. Hug one another a little tighter. Say I love you more and mean it. Realize what’s really important in this world, and don’t take those who care about you for granted. Give in as graciously as possible when you must but hold tight to the things that you can. Take me, for instance. This may well be the year of the dumpster fire, and it’s taken a lot from me, but I’ll be damned if I let it take my twinkle lights.