I've had it up to the jingle bell on my elf hat with so many people (coughQuinncough) kvetching about Christmas. (I'm not angry, Quinn; just disappointed.) There is a lot of complaining to choose from: it's too commercial, there's a war against it, it starts too early, it's such a disappointment when it gets here.
Blah blah blah.
Enough already. It's as if we didn't have a recession, high unemployment, Sarah Palin's book leaks and an actual war to worry about. Oh no! WNIC started playing Christmas music a few weeks earlier than you would prefer? NOW we have a national crisis!
The root of the problem with the Grinches (the Quinnches, if you will) is that they have a bad case of "Christmas: ur doin it rong." No matter how many Christmas specials they've seen, they still think that Christmas, in fact, does come from a store; or that it's about an actual day of present exchange while eating yourself into a stupor; or that the birth of Jesus has anything at all to do with the cultural celebration of this season, which turns on candy canes and spiked egg nog.
Quinnches: ur doin it rong.
Part of what I love about Christmas is its constancy, its capacity to make nostalgia so present. Every year, I sit (or stand) at Midnight Mass at St. Paul Catholic--really a beautiful, crowded concert for choral Christmas music--and remember sitting (or standing) there in years past: young Erika who just wanted to open her presents; pre-teen Erika with her brother's head resting on her shoulder; teenage Erika, just wanting the holidays to be over. Erika in college, Erika in law school, Erika in love. Christmastime is a thread that pulls together every self I've ever been.
I remember the one Christmas I did not spend in Grosse Pointe, when two college friends and I whispered "Merry Christmas" over the voices of a blue-cloaked choir at Notre Dame. I remember the last Christmas my grandpa gave his yearly toast, and I remember the next year when my uncle Mike took the reins. I remember waking my parents at 5 AM to open presents, and I remember, years later, my brother having to pull the covers off me at 9. I remember dancing in the kitchen to Christmas music with my dad while we took a special Christmas brandy break from decorating the tree. (That was last week.)
I remember being very young, sitting in the back seat of my dad's car late on Christmas Eve, picking at my white tights and staring out the window at the night sky. I thought, for sure, I could hear sleigh bells.
As I get older, Christmas has become more important because I have been able to braid my old traditions into my relationships with new people--Christmas is, at once, static and dynamic. Watching The Muppet Christmas Carol, making cookies, decorating the house, going to The Nutcracker: what a beautiful way to connect the people I love now to the things I have loved forever.
Christmastime also brings around old friends whom I don't get to see every day: a high school friend who now attends medical school in Philadelphia; a college roommate who works in London. The Quinnch seems to forget that Christmas is one of two times a year when we gather with our closest friends from college for an overnight party of reveling in our own mutual admiration. There will be presents, mulled wine, dishes to pass, chocolate, peppermint schnapps and catching up about the lives we must now, cruelly, spend apart the rest of the year. During Christmas, we get to celebrate the people we love the most.
And we get to do it with the special Christmas brandy.
So yes, radio, please play "Santa Baby" in early November. Meijer, mix in your Christmas decorations with the Halloween costumes. Neighbors, put up your lights! I would love to grocery shop on the Tuesday after Halloween with visions of those sugarplums dancing in my head.
And if that just doesn't light up your red-nosed reindeer, you don't have to march with me in the Silver-and-Gold Pride Parade. But don't expect me to leave my Christmas spirit in the closet, which, I can assure y0u, is completely empty right now because I put out every wreath, reindeer and candlestick the day after Thanksgiving. While listening to the Christmas mix I made in October.
We're here, we're full of cheer: get used to it.
Photo of the author from July 2006, when someone told her it was too early to celebrate Christmas.