I have a really weird relationship with Christmas. The past few years, I've been a bit of a Scrooge, and had difficulty getting into the holiday spirit. It didn't always used to be that way, growing up I was obsessed with Christmas. I became so attached to the memories of everything the holiday was to me. I am a sucker for tradition, and my Christmas always followed the same pattern, in London with my mother's family. The week leading up to the holiday was also spent in London, driving around looking at the Harrod's Windows, visiting Father Christmas, and getting more and more excited about the big day. Christmas Day itself was always a festive affair, filled with family and all of the quirks that made it ours. More on those later.
After my grandmother died six years ago, that ended my Christmas celebrations in London. it was kind of my Grinch, as it stole my Christmas. These days, I not only have a hard time getting into the festive demeanor, but always find myself feeling kind of dejected on the day itself. There is nothing that can happen that can even come close to the first twenty Christmases. These days, when all I hear is Christmas music on the radio or coming a friends stereo I get annoyed. (On a side unrelated note, I am a HUGE fan of traditional Christmas carols, not stupid poppy ones. I ADORE choir music, which means I am not in fact, 26, but closer to 76) Even watching Christmas movies or shopping doesn't get me in the mood.
Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas shopping, I LOVE buying gifts for my loved ones. I put a lot of effort into my gift giving. I tend to over analyze and stress out about it, to find the meaningful "I care and know you gift" but shopping isn't what makes me think "'Tis the season" There is hope for me though, as something always shifts in me, and I begin to thaw.
The moment where I morph from the Grinch to a Who always arrives unexpectedly. In NYC, it usually occurred when I was walking to the subway. As I made my way across from 53rd and Broadway to 51st and Lex, I was forced to pass some major Christmas-y landmarks. As I saw the Rock Center tree, the Cartier display and the Saks light show, the magic of the season finally hit me as I watched the city I loved so much literally display the sparkle that is usually just an undertone.
Sometimes it happened when I arrived in Florida after a freezing winter in Boston or NYC, I walked through my front door and was hit by the aroma of pine and glitter of a tree. Living as a university student or a recent grad in the city, one doesn't have much room or time to decorate for the holiday, making it a bit harder to capture the spirit. The moment I walk into my house though, it's as if the whole thing becomes real. The only drawback is Florida is warm. There is no snow and you don't wear coats.
Hanoi has been tougher than most years. For obvious reasons, it's a bit harder to find the "cheer" over here, the weather (while it might be "cold") isn't Christmas-y and there aren't really any lights or trees around. However, I did find a little glimmer of my heart of stone thawing, and that was when I taught my students Christmas carols. Something about their tiny accented voices singing the words so earnestly makes me smile and embrace the season.
Something else that caused a major shift in my demeanor was my change in holiday plans. My parents were supposed to be coming out to Vietnam, where we were supposed to travel, but at the last minute they weren't able to. Instead, I'm being flown home and get to spend the day (and three weeks) surrounded by the people in the world that I love the most. That's something I've taken for granted my whole life, the expectation that Christmas and any holiday would be spent with my nearest and dearest. But that's not a right, it's a privilege, one that a lot of people aren't fortunate enough to share.
Once I realized that my holidays would be spent the way they are, i started getting really excited. I started thinking about everything that Christmas is about, and I realized that I need to stop being such a baby. So my traditions have changed, that doesn't mean the holiday has. Christmas isn't about how cold it is outside, carols, or gingerbread cookies, lights or even London. Yes, I will stand by my statement that tradition is a huge part of the day and is what can make it so lovely...however, the primary magic about Christmas is about the people you spend it with, and the joy and love the togetherness of that brings you.
9 days. :)