When I was a kid, Christmas was everything. My childhood had its challenges, which I just listed and then deleted because it matters not a bit. Anyway, it was rough. But for some reason, we always had a huge Christmas. When I was really small, my Grandma Wood had an Annual Christmas Eve party at her house, my haven. While my family moved from hovel to hovel at least once and usually more than once a year throughout my formative years, Grandma's house was always there, always in the same place. It was a nice home, like the ones where the kids on TV resided. The whole family would gather and eat and drink and talk and play and Grandma always gave us the best gifts.
At home, my stepfather, dysfunctional and abusive the rest of the year, would go all out. Maybe guilt, I don't know. He and Mom would spend all year paying for the previous Christmas, then do it all again. One year there were so many presents that the only path from our bedroom to the living room was to crawl through one of those expandable tubes they make for kids. I believed in Santa with every fiber of my being (and I still do.) I saw him once as a child and once as an adult, but that's another post. Somehow, Mom and Dad, who did the best they knew how to do the rest of the year, always made Christmas magical and special and huge, and I will always be grateful for that.
The happiest times of my childhood were those early Christmasses, going to Gramma Wood's house for the family party, worrying about getting home before Santa, and waking up to a world of wonder.
As a grown-up, I tried to keep that magic alive for my girls. I have always gone overboard at Christmastime. And when they grew up, I claimed Christmas Eve as my day to host the family. Every year we all gather here at my house. We're up to 28 now, just with my daughters, their spouses and kids, and one granddaughter with a spouse and a baby. (And another due in February, making me a twice-great!) Lance and I are planning to insulate the enclosed front porch to make it a heated, year-round room, and put an archway in where its doors are, so the living room will open into it. We are planning this solely to make more room for our big family Christmas gatherings.
I'm so lucky that I married a freaking Christmas Elf! He is as into all the holiday cheer as I am, and as a result our house can be seen from outer space.
I admit, I've been having a hard time keeping my normal level of cheer this year There's a lot of grief and fear in the world right now and it feels like it's in the air. But the energy of the holidays truly helps. It's in the air, too. We can feel it if we tune in to it, and it will lift us even higher. Your religion doesn't matter. This holiday was celebrated before any of the religions we know today even existed. It's the message of nature! It's the promised Return of the Light after the longest, darkest night of the year. Every day from December 22nd onward is longer, every night is shorter, the recovery is visibly underway. It's a big deal.
I don't think we're going to try to gather for Thanksgiving this year because you cannot mask while eating. But the kids whose moms are teachers have two weeks off from school over Christmas and will isolate the whole time so that at the very end of it, they come for an overnight! I'm so excited to have them again. I normally have them every few weeks, in two different batches.
So Chistmas–we'll wait and see. We have nurses in the family and we have teachers in the family. High risk for exposure. But nobody's sick and there are few underlying conditions. Our rates of transmission here are very low, under 2% in my county (Cortland) and even lower in three of my five daughters' county (Madison.) The other two are in Broome County where it's a bit higher, but staying consistently under 3%.
If the weather is nice, maybe we'll do an outdoor ice skating party with presents and a bonfire, which is my personal preference. We could even eat if we were outside and far apart. But time will tell what we can and can't do this year. And we'll do whatever is safest, and resume our big boisterous holiday traditions next year. Heck, if the vaccine comes through in time, we might even be able to have a warm, sunny Christmas in July party!
In the meantime, I'm throwing myself into decorating and holiday movies and music. I'm decking the halls and baking and focusing on the good. I'm nurturing myself as best I can.
It's not the same. And it's not easy. My heart is going out one and all in hopes you can find the joy of the holidays, despite the conditions.
And as the dawn of the new year rises, we can say like the Whos down in Whoville, “It came, just the same.”