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Frost grows outside the window

First kiss under the mistletoe, oh oh, oh oh

The above lyrics are from a new holiday tune “It’s Christmas Time Again” by my favorite guilty pleasure, the Backstreet Boys. Yes, they are still together; yes, I do still enjoy them as much as I did at age fourteen; no, I do not care if you judge me.

This year, I am happy to report, will be a better Christmas than the previous two. Last year, my boyfriend was out of town working for two months; the year prior, I spent my first Christmas alone. This year, my boyfriend is in town, and I will get to see my mother and father on Christmas Day.

But I will say, this year, Christmas feels different. It’s been on a progression of “feeling different” ever since my grandfather passed almost eighteen years ago. That was my first taste of some of the magic being taken away. Then, somewhere around age 9 or 10, we all can say we stopped believing in Santa. Then, the presents stop being quite as fun: Barbie dolls and Matchbox cars turn into sweaters and ties. Then you’re an adult and live away from home and have to worry about airline workers going on strike or bad weather interrupting your travel plans. And for those of us who’ve ever worked in retail during the holidays, forget it–the magic feels non-existent. The songs (and shoppers) wear thin our nerves, the decorations are on sale before the holiday even happens, and the Valentine’s Day candy is out on the shelves December 26th (or earlier!).

What I’ve been struggling with this year is how to make Christmas feel like “Christmas” again. I wouldn’t say I have the holiday blues or anything, but the whole holiday just doesn’t feel “right”. It comes up so quickly that there you are, 5 days before Christmas, writing out cards to your aunts and uncles, making sure you get last minute gifts for your parents, and checking weather.com for what you hope will be good driving conditions Christmas Eve morning. The memories of what Christmas was when you were a child start to make you wistful rather than warm and fuzzy. You brace yourself for what questions your parents may ask you that you won’t want to answer, for arguments you don’t want to have.

I assume that my friends who have children have regained some of that Christmas magic. They have someone for whom to make Christmas magical, someone who believes in Santa, someone who is untouched by the grief and stress brought on by the season. Since I don’t plan on having children, this is not something to which I can look forward. My friends who do not yet have their own children but have nieces and nephews receive a modicum of the magic, I imagine, since there will be toys to unwrap and cookies to put out for Santa. I’m an only child…no nieces or nephews here.

So what, then, are we childless only children to do? What do you do when you hope Christmas will be more than just you and your aging-and-grumpy-about-it parents sitting around staring at each other all day? How do you enjoy yourself when you know there are people whose relatives are in the military overseas and there are people whose houses got wrecked by a hurricane two months ago and there are parents whose children who got shot at last week?

….

You celebrate Christmas. You eat your favorite meal (mine is Christmas Eve dinner). You give your parents cards that make them cry (Damn you, Hallmark). You sit around and stare not at each other but at the beautiful, lit Christmas tree. You indulge in cookies. You indulge in tears for those no longer with you. You listen to the same Nat King Cole Christmas album you always listen to. You go to church and sing louder than all the other Catholics because Catholics don’t sing and your mother elbows you for singing too loudly (at least this is my Christmas service experience). And you celebrate Christmas. The guests change, the magic dissipates, but if you’re lucky, you have a mom who still bakes your favorite Christmas cookies and a dad who still puts up all the lights (in perfectly straight lines) on the trees outside and a cousin (who was like a sister to you growing up) with a baby you can buy presents for and see their face light up and feel that light in your heart.

Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate it. Happy Two Weeks Paid Vacation to those of you who don’t. And may 2013 bring goodness and blessings to all of us.

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