The holidays are fast approaching, and I am getting very excited. Many people are not, as evidenced by these tv ads:
Basically the gist is, Christmas is a pain in the ass, but in the end you get the warm fuzzies.
My husband got upset at the Asda ad (the first one) because the tagline is “Behind every great Christmas, there’s Mum.” He tends to get up and arms very quickly when he gets a whiff of reverse sexism (something that doesn’t exist so much). Here, though, I have to agree with him–good holidays should be a team effort from both partners, and he’s definitely going to be the one putting kids’ bikes together, and we’ll do the dinner together…
Holy crap. I just realized I have a date for all holidays for the rest of my life. I also have a reason to host holidays. I think this is a watershed moment, where I realize that I’m actually an adult. Before this, I was always at my parents’ for holidays, helping out perhaps, but never in charge. Now I realize that things could start to be very different.
They already are. This year I’m hosting Thanksgiving, because I can’t just not celebrate it. I love Thanksgiving! I love all holidays, but I’m getting to that. Obviously British people don’t celebrate Thanksgiving at all, but for me it is a lovely meal, the start of the holiday season. It’s about fall colors and turkeys, and, in my family, a meal that goes on for literally six hours with lots of wine. I can’t just let it pass by and shove a Tesco curry in the oven.
So I’m cooking Thanksgiving dinner for my in laws. This will be a massive undertaking, since obviously I have to do it exactly like my parents do. That means ordering pumpkin pie filling from Amazon. But cherry pie filling can’t be obtained, and cans of jellied cranberry sauce (you know, with the rings permanently impressed into the semi-solid state of the cranberry sauce) is exhorbitantly priced. Stuffing is also weird here, with smaller bits. I’m used to the big cruton style stuffing. But there will be three kinds of pie at least (apple, pumpkin, and mince), and my father’s sausage stuffing, and the turkey of course, and my mother’s orange yams, and mashed potatoes…as you can see, it’s quite the undertaking. And yet I can’t wait. I sit and plan in my head what I’m going to need and what I have to buy.
The same is true for Christmas. Those ads make decorating and shopping seem a chore, but the truth is I love that stuff. All of it. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for presents, because to me they’re very significant. Someone goes out with you in mind and brings something back for you because they think you’ll like it–this is such a generous and thoughtful thing to do. I realize that not all gifts are so personal, but I’d like to think they are. I certainly take pride in carefully selecting presents for the people on my list, because I truly want them to get enjoyment out of these things. When I see them doing so, it makes me happier than I can express.
But it’s not just the buying. It’s the wrapping too. When one of my friends moved to Germany, she gave me a wrapping station that holds all the tubes of wrapping paper, plus ribbon, plus scissors. It was one of the best things I ever got in my life. I couldn’t take it with me, and I was sad, but at least I know it found a good home with my sister. Clearly I shall have to build a new wrapping empire here in England, and affordable and ubiquitous wrapping paper will make that a cinch. The weird thing though is that the English don’t do present boxes. Any American is familiar with the scramble to secure wrapping boxes, and the resulting stack of postcard perfect presents in perfectly square shapes. I asked my husband about this and he was astonished to find that Americans use boxes. He muttered about it for a good while, mostly along the lines of “Well, that just seems a bit of a waste of time.” Nevertheless, I shall persevere and still have gorgeously wrapped presents.
I love it all, from the tree trimming to the baking to the Christmas carols in church. Holidays fill me with cheer, and I love the idea of not only being happy myself, but also spreading that happiness to others. What would otherwise be a very dark and cold part of the year is alight and warm with a festive spirit. What’s not to love?
My husband, however, is not a particularly festive person when it comes to Christmas. Gift giving to him is much more of a chore. This year we’re treating each other to a weekend in London–he’ll get to see Professor Brian Cox and I’ll get to see Les Mis. I’m not complaining about this arrangement in the slightest, as I get to see Les Mis and London, two things I especially enjoy. But presents mean very little to him, and he professes to being ‘holiday-ed out’ at a certain point. I, on the other hand, can sit for marathon sessions with my family on holidays. It helps that as my father gets older, he gets slightly less crazy.
So now that I’m a grownup, and in charge of my holidays, I have to work on getting him more into the holiday spirit. This is not so much for his sake as for our future children’s. I want them to think of holidays fondly, as a good time for my family. This is even more possible since I’m married to a man who does not tend towards semi schizophrenic rages. But still, he does need some get up and go when it comes to holidays to make it something truly merry. The question is, how do you get someone into the holiday spirit when they’ve never really had it? That is the real puzzle. Meanwhile, I will be happily purchasing Christmas bows to coordinate my wrapping paper.