Friends say I don’t like Christmas, but that’s not true. I love listening to Phil Spector’s Christmas album while pigging out on cookies and sipping champagne.
I like opening presents with my husband on Christmas morning. He always gets me an outfit, and I love modeling it. I like baking cookies with my mom, receiving gifts from far-flung family members, making a goofy holiday card, going to the mailbox to see who sent me a card, weeping while I read the Truman Capote classic, A Christmas Memory, and singing along with, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”
So I do like Christmas. I just seem a bit Grinchy for the traditions I eschew. I don’t get a Christmas tree. I don’t buy a lot of gifts. I don’t own any Christmas festive wear. I wince at the bags of garbage generated by our “scaled-down” Christmas. I just find it all to be too much. I can get grouchy, sometimes lamenting that I’d rather spend the holiday the way my Jewish pals do: catching a movie and dining at a Chinese restaurant.
But now, I’m a mom. And as my daughter Celia’s second Christmas approaches, I need to find my inner Kris Kringle.
I want Celia to experience the joy of Christmas, and I believe, under all those Toys R Us catalogs, it’s there … somewhere.
Last Christmas, she was only five weeks old. I was so grateful to have her, I would have sung “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” in the middle of Macy’s, naked, except for the antlers on my head. As a sleep-deprived new mom, all I was asked to do for our traditional Christmas dinner of beef and Yorkshire pudding was, “BRING THE BABY!”
This year, Celia is a joy, as bright as the star that would be atop our tree—if we had one. She loves music and is captivated by anything that shimmers. She is ready for the holidays, if not yet old enough to understand the concept of Jesus born in a manger or Santa coming down the chimney. (The two stories celebrated simultaneously must be confusing for kids of all ages … but that’s for another story.)
Some are born with the Christmas spirit. I need a plan. I’ve decided to take on the Christmas customs I can live with at a rate of one per year, working up to a tree when Celia is about four. First, I will indulge in a favorite childhood tradition: stockings.
I ordered three velvet socks with silver tassels. I plan to get some Elmer’s Glue and some glitter and write our names on them. Some logistics need to be worked out, such as whether to put Mommy and Daddy or Patti and Jason. And should I get some mini stockings for our dogs, Petey and Albany?
I’ll fill Celia’s with little gifts, just like my mom did from the time I was little until a couple of years ago, when my mom, my sister, and I declared a moratorium on trinkets.
Jason has hobbies and is easy to find trinkets for. I’ll drop some subtle hints that he needs to gather up some for my sock. I’ll probably write, “Buy stocking stuffers for your wife!!!” on a post-it note and stick it on the coffee pot on Christmas Eve morning.
We plan to fill the house with music and the smell of freshly baked cookies. I may make the ones shaped like candy canes and sprinkled with peppermint even though they are labor-intensive.
I won’t go to the mall, even for the Santa photo op, or any tree lightings. But I’ll tie up the presents I bought online with ribbons. Would it be a downer to wrap my gifts in brown bags from the grocery store? I have issues with wrapping paper …
I don’t plan to buy Celia any gifts. Am I horrible? Here’s what I’m thinking: she’s one. She will get tons of presents from the many grandparents who adore her. She won’t know who got her what. Did I mention she’s one?
I want Christmas to be fun for all of us, a truly happy holiday. I don’t want to pass on my holiday hang-ups to my child, I just want her to enjoy Christmas and, hopefully, find meaning amid the tinsel. I want her to understand it’s about connecting with the people you love, appreciating all you have, being generous, and … pigging out on cookies while listening to Darlene Love: “They’re singing, ‘Deck the Halls,’ but it’s not like Christmas at all, ‘Cause I remember when you were here, and all the fun we had last year!”