Thursday, December 19, 2013
Discovering the Magic of Christmas as an Adult
If you've ever sprinkled reindeer dust on your lawn, donned a hat with a sprig of mistletoe hanging off the front, or placed a giant inflatable penguin on your lawn, I'm sorry.
If you take your pets sit on Santa's lap, have elf shoes in an adult size, or any garment of clothing with a bedazzled "Ho Ho Ho" across the chest, I ask for absolution.
And most of all, if you are currently driving around in a car with antlers stuck to the top and a red nose on the grill, please forgive me.
Because for the past few decades, whether you know it or not, I have been making fun of you. I've mocked you silently and not so silently, rolled my eyes at the sight of you, and poo-pooed your holiday spirit. I've called you some not-so-nice names and questioned your intellectual prowess, and for that I'm deeply, deeply sorry.
Because I get it. I finally get it.
It took me 40 years and a little girl who grabbed my hand and yanked me out of an otherwise dreary, stressful day as we wandered through the grocery store parking lot, my brain processing through its never-ending to-do list (holiday and regular editions combined) on autopilot.
"OOH, Mommy look!!!!" she squealed in delight, her blue eyes blazing with excitement. "A Rudolph car!!!" She threw her head back right there in the middle of the parking lot and giggled hysterically. Then she grabbed my hand and pulled me closer to the car.
"Shhhh! He's sleeping!" she warned me. "You can't touch him- he's…MAGIC."
And that's when it clicked: the magic.
I'd heard about it in songs and movies, but never actually believed in it.
And because I didn't believe in the magic, it was just easier to scoff at those who did.
Don't get me wrong- I certainly didn't grow up deprived as our tree was piled high with presents (most of them purchased in my mom's annual Christmas Eve shopping frenzy we dubbed "The Closing of the Malls") and the table overflowed with food. We wanted for nothing… except maybe a little magic.
I'm quite certain my scholarly, professional, serious, immigrant parents didn't even know about the magic. It's not like it comes in the "How to Live in America: Holiday Edition" newsletter. They did their very best at melding their version of Christmas (a serious, deeply religious holiday celebrated on January 7th as per the Orthodox calendar requiring 40 days of prayer and abstaining from all animal products to prepare) with that of their new home (Trees! Cookies! Lights! Elves! Beginning in August!!) as best they could, but there was very little pretense. And not much magic.
So for years I told myself the magic wasn't necessary. In fact, it was just plain excess. Who needs magic when you can have a perfectly fine holiday without it? I blanketed myself in reason and rationality aside so I could focus on other elements of the holiday season, like stress.
When I had my own children, I convinced myself that I was doing the right thing by not overindulging them in Christmas magic or saddling them with lofty expectations of magical holidays. Wouldn't magic only lead to disappointment when the (wo)man behind the curtain was revealed? Wouldn't it take away from our focus on the real meaning of Christmas? Who needs magic, anyway?
Turns out, I do.
Because this year in particular, Christmas started to feel a bit hollow. Already stretched far too thin in every direction, coping with a loved one in the hospital, faced with mounting work pressures, school parties, the shopping, the baking, the wrapping, the endless planning of every second of every day, there were only 2 choices: give into the stress, or give into the magic.
I chose Rudolph.
So here's to you, reindeer car. Here's to balancing the reason for the season with giggles and wonder and fun. Here's to not hiding in the past, but taking the best of what you've had and deciding for yourself what you want the future to be.
And here's to losing yourself in the big blue eyes of a 4-year-old girl.
Here's to a magical Christmas.