I used to love, love, love Christmas (still do!). And judge me if you’d like. But it didn’t have anything to do with baby Jesus. I’m purely into the secular and commercial aspects of the holiday. I believed in Santa until my sister killed the illusion. And I probably could have kept the fantasy going for much longer because I wanted to believe in it. Not so much the fat, white man breaking into homes while people sleep part – that’s undeniably creepy. But it was the mystery of a generous spirit arriving once a year to reward you for being good and kind. And the excitement, generosity, and overall happiness of my family. It was all so fantastic.
And my Mom went big with it. Christmas was such a major affair in our house. We’d have the tree decorated well before the holiday, including the various ornaments my sister and I made throughout the years, and lots of pretty lights. A few wrapped presents were placed under the tree in advance. But the real magic would happen overnight between xmas eve and xmas morning. We’d go downstairs early in the morning to find a fantasy land where barbies and cabbage patch dolls came to celebrate. My dad would have put some things together, with plenty of treasures for my sister and me to enjoy in amazement on our respective sides of the tree (I think she normally had the right side and I had the left). The barbie pool and several dolls would stand out on her side, while a big sled and the “hungry, hungry hippo” game waited for me. I have such vivid, and fond memories of looking over the railing from upstairs to see what was in store for us downstairs on xmas morning. It never disappointed, always filling me with incredible amounts of joy. And although it was somewhat materialistic (who doesn’t like to get fun things every once in awhile?), the overarching sentiment was the fun of anticipation and surprise.
As part of the natural cycle of life, my sister, brother-in-law, and I stayed up until about 3am this morning to prepare for xmas morning for my two nephews. Wrapping, assembling things, making it all look festive and exciting – it was a serious effort. And just like it has pretty much every year before, it made me super happy, remembering how much I love this holiday. The only major difference between xmas now and then is the ability to sleep through the night (xmas was the only day of the year on which I thought it perfectly acceptable to start my day at 4am). And just like my sister and me, my nephews are lucky boys – surrounded by family, love, and incredibly cool presents.
I’m not into many holidays. Valentine’s Day can stay in its exclusive, cardboard, heart-shaped box, Easter and its bunny never really caught on (though one year I got a poorly handwritten note from the Easter bunny thanking me for the cookies I provided, which was really sweet), and 4th of July offends me and my enslaved ancestors. Christmas is my favorite. And for this reason, I’ll always make my best effort to celebrate it with my family – even if that means flying in from Amsterdam every year.
Although the Dutch also celebrate xmas on December 25th, their major holiday around this time of year is Sinterklaas. It’s similar to xmas in that gifts are given to children and there’s a Santa-like figure named Sinterklaas, who happens to be thinner than Santa and from Spain. One major difference is it’s celebrated on December 5th. Oh, and Sinterklaas has a little helper named Black Piet, who is normally a white man in black face, clearly acting as Sinterklaas’ slave. Uhhhh, yeah. I’ll probably have more to say on that next year. But let’s just say I don’t think the Dutch holiday will be replacing xmas anytime soon on my list of favorites.
For now, I’ll just leave it at Happy Holidays to all, whether it’s Christmas, Sinterklaas, Festivus, or whatever holiday brings you joy. I hope everyone is even slightly as blessed as I feel on this day.