Also, have a great Christmas. Spend time with family and enjoy yourself! That's an order. ;)
I’ll admit it. I’m a recovering Christmas Scrooge.
I never had an outright dislike for the holiday. It was a more gradual burnout of Christmas overload each year.
Since when did it become a month long monstrosity, filled with stale cookies, annoying songs, forced smiles and gingerbread houses that you’re supposedly not allowed to eat?
It all sounded like hell to me.
The loathing probably began in my adolescence, after the magic of receiving presents dulled, and family gatherings began to feel too routine.
Worst of all for me were all of those stop-motion specials playing repeatedly on television. You know, the ones where all the characters are made of clay. Those movies were the proverbial fingernails on the chalkboard. Anytime one came on, I cringed. I don’t know if there was ever a time I enjoyed them, even in childhood. At least, until now.
But in October (2013), I got married to my boyfriend of almost six years, Mark. Unlike me, he can’t get enough of Christmas.
While he was in graduate school, he decorated the living room of his bachelor pad apartment with an entire set of two-foot tall holiday-themed Peanuts characters, complete with Charlie Brown, Snoopy and Woodstock. He didn’t have the heart to put them away until spring. Seriously.
It doesn’t help that Mark is the embodiment of a Santa in his younger years. He prides himself on his thick, dark beard. Also, he’s a little rounder in the middle. Paired with his affinity for the holiday and his charisma with others, especially children, he could be a believable Santa Claus someday. Despite the bigger, burly man he is, he’s probably more like Cindy Lou in this story, trying to convert the Grinch.
His slow conversion of me began innocuously. Stressing the importance of tree decoration came first. Fluffing the branches is key to a realistic aesthetic with a fake tree, he said. Evenly distributing the ornaments was important, too.
But decorating a tree just to take it down in a few weeks seemed like an unnecessary chore. I let him do most of the work at least for awhile.
Then came the stream of must-see movies. “The Year Without a Santa Claus” was Mark’s favorite. It’s one of those claymation movies I have gotten annoyed with so much. I’d let him put the movie on, but I usually can’t sit all the way through it.
I have always been more of a “Home Alone” kind of girl, anyway. And I could almost always relate to the defiant words of Kevin McCallister: Christmas sucks.
Meanwhile, Mark’s mother, a skilled baker, began giving me tips on how to make the best holiday cookies — there is a difference between melted and softened butter after all. Also, I could see where Mark got his spirit.
Each year, his mother decorated the house with lights in every room, multiple trees with hundreds of ornaments, and stacks upon stacks of cookies, biscotti and homemade candies on trays. I could go on about other details — the wreaths, the neatly wrapped presents, the train set with a neighborhood of miniature houses under the tree.
Any time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, going to his parents’ house was like visiting a live-action Christmas card. It wasn’t forced, but intricately done. I could see why Mark loved it.
This year, something strange happened. I found myself getting eager to put up the tree, and wanting to pull down childhood ornaments from the attic I hadn’t seen in years.
I couldn’t stop baking cookies either. Trying out new recipes kind of became an involuntary tick. Multiple batches of gingerbread, snickerdoodles and sugar cookie dough began piling up in the refrigerator.
I even designed my own Christmas card for family and friends. It was simple. Using Photoshop and a wedding photo, I edited a Santa hat onto each of our heads. I made Mark’s hat red. Mine was green. Guess it doesn’t take much to make things festive.
It seemed like the Christmas spirit was becoming contagious.
Even the stop-motion movies became fresh again. I hadn’t watched one of those all the way through in so long that I had forgotten what they were all about.
Perhaps that’s what happened to me and Christmas. I was so quick to dismiss old traditions that I wasn’t able to relax and fully enjoy the love that had always surrounded me. I don’t think my heart was ever two sizes too small, but I do think love was the one constant that converted me into a believer again. I’m already excited for next year.