‘Tis the Season

tis the seasonPhoto: John Minchillo/AP Images for Macy’s

Perhaps this is an unnecessary admission, but I love the holiday season. LOVE IT. Some might say I love it too much. And to that I would reply that how one celebrates the holiday season (including the questions of how much/from what point/when) is a personal decision. I’m a firm believer in “Live and Let Live” and I’ll go far as to extend that to the question of holiday celebrating: “Celebrate and Let Celebrate.”

The rule when I was growing up was that we weren’t allowed to start celebrating Christmas (our holiday of choice/happenstance) until December 9th, the day after MamaPen’s birthday. (Happy almost-birthday, Mom!)  As I got older (read: as I hit middle school and became a rebellious adolescent), I, um, bristled at this idea.

Eventually, MamaPen and I settled on a compromise: I could start celebrating the holidays whenever I wanted, but that celebration wasn’t allowed to leave my room until December 9th. The result? From early November that year (I think it was 1996), my room was positively festooned with garlands of silver tinsel and a voluminous red-and-green paper chain and there was a constant stream of Christmas music playing on my stereo.

I admit, that was a bit excessive.

But, that compromise really set the tone for how I think about holiday celebrating these days. The last thing I ever want to do is force my celebrating on someone else. I’m more than happy to have a Christmas movie marathon and/or bake a gingerbread house with a willing co-conspirator, but I’m not a celebration autocrat.

When I hit the phase I will refer to as “agressively demonstrative adulthood” (aka my mid-20’s, when I became gainfully employed for the first time and was very serious about “being an adult”), I tried to be more stoic about the whole thing. “Real adults” don’t start with the Christmas too early, and so I put it off and put it off, and you know what happened? Next thing I knew, it was the week before Christmas, and I was so busy with work, traveling, and family celebrations that I never got a chance to just relax and enjoy it. That made me really sad, like I’d missed something. (And it definitely led to an arguably pitiful scenario wherein I was listening to Christmas music on my iPod well into January.)

Then, as in my childhood, I realized a compromise was in order. So I set myself a starting date. But the starting date kept slipping earlier every year as the urge reared its bacchanalian head with no regard to the level of appropriateness. I’d feel guilty/ashamed, but give into it (because, hey, I’m only human). And then I realized, I was being silly. Not for starting my holiday season earlier than many people can stomach it, but for making myself feel bad about something that I enjoy precisely because it makes me feel happy.

Here’s the thing. Apart from being what I like to think of as a realistic optimist about a lot of things, I don’t think I have an unreasonable view of the world. But during the holiday season, that changes for me. There’s something in the air, the holiday spirit or what have you, that adds a bit of magic. It’s as though I shed the outer layer of whatever mental or emotional calluses have built up, and I see the world through different eyes. It’s a subtle alchemy that, for a handful of weeks each year, makes me believe in only the best side of humanity. I unabashedly revel in a sense of youthful enthusiasm.

The quote at the top, from the original version of Miracle on 34th Street, says it all for me. When I finally saw that movie for the first time last year (I know, I know), that line resonated deeply with me. And the photo, of the crowd outside the unveiling of the holiday windows at the Macy’s flagship store in New York this year, captures the spirit of it. That guy up front on the left? Yeah.

So, happy holidays, folks! Whatever your customary holiday(s), may you have a season full of childish wonder and good times with loved ones.

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