12/27/06

Ghost of Christmas Past

This year, I almost missed Christmas. I've felt the Christmas spirit slipping away from me the past few years - the anticipation of Christmas morning, the expectancy all through the month of December, the "specialness" of everything having to do with Christmas. In response, I've tried harder every year to do Christmasy things, to recapture the spirit of the season. Singing carols, wrapping presents, playing our collection of Christmas CDs nonstop since I've been home - nothing worked. Christmas snuck up on me. I'd blame it on the lack of snow, but as a Texan I should be used to that.

I think part of it is the busyness of my family. We don't have time for the traditional Advent activities we've always done. In past years, my parents have written messages containing family activities, from going to look at Christmas lights to sharing favorite Christmas memories, and slipped them in each pocket of our Advent calendar. The past few years we forgot a few days, but this year we didn't bother at all. The first two weeks I wasn't home, and there was just too much going on at work and school for everyone else. I think another part of it is that my brother and sister have finally caught on to the myth of Santa Claus. That means no more letters to the North Pole, no more cookies and milk on Christmas Eve. This year, our Christmas Eve conversation went like this: "Is a cubic foot of lead heavier than a cubic foot of gold? My periodic table doesn't say." "I don't know. Hallie, will you Google it?" And our traditional reading of "The Night Before Christmas" was punctuated with serious debates of the definition of sugarplum and the doubtful attribution of the poem. My family may have gotten too intellectual for its own good.

Still, no matter how busy or weird my family is, that can't be the only reason. Part of it must simply be about growing up. I can now happily go to bed early on Christmas Eve, sleep soundly, and complain about being dragged from my bed by my younger siblings to see the stockings. Gone are the days when I awoke anxiously every hour to check the clock and debate exactly how early I could awaken my parents. Gone also is the hushed, glowing anticipation of the night before Christmas - I spent it IMing friends and idly surfing the internet. Christmas morning came and went; presents were opened, lunch was eaten, and we all settled down with our books or laptops to while away the day. And then it was over. But while the magic seems to be mostly gone, a different feeling has replaced it. I now understand why my mom says family is the most important thing to her at Christmas. More than the presents, which I could take or leave (as a college student I don't have room for more stuff anyway), and even my mom's amazing Christmas dinner, cheesy as it sounds, I was just happy to be home and surrounded by my family. Is this new, quieter, more adult Christmas spirit better than the butterflies-in-the-stomach, sparkling Christmas spirit of the years before? I wish I could have both, but I guess I can settle for growing up.