We had a small holiday party the first week of December. And there were plenty of holiday spirits shared – and shall we say, re-gifted the next morning.
It sounds stupid, but it makes me want to have another holiday party. It went well, our friends had a great time, but I had all of this stuff to hang up all around the living room that never got hung up. We had our tree up, and the place looked okay, but there’s a nagging itch to have more people over at various times this month to see our modest holiday decor.
What is the malfunction in my brain that makes me think I won’t be satisfied with my holidays until people compliment the bunting I made last year? Or until they appreciate the cookies we made? Seriously, dude. I don’t understand why I feel this way.
We had our party early on in the season, because every other single weekend until Christmas is spoken for on our social calendar, including a welcome trip to Chicago (partly for work, partly for play) right before Christmas.
It’s just one of those holiday things. When I was a kid, and my parents divorced, I remember crying over Christmas dinner the year after they finally split for good. It was my mom, my then 5 year old brother, and 11 year old me, upset because we weren’t having a traditional-enough Thanksgiving. Not enough people, friends, family, decor, music, whatever. It wasn’t even presents I wanted. (It was never presents I wanted.) It was the Publix commercial, namely the one with the Pat Metheny song my mother adores. The smiling, the soft lit dining room, the holding hands and the laughter around the table, the terrific conversation I never quite understood when adults would talk for hours.
When my mother and my grandmother, a master conversationalist if there ever was one, would talk, and especially if I was in bed listening, I would try to track their change of topics. I would listen as one subject mutated into another. It was fascinating material.
And the year my parents got divorced, and it was only us three, it didn’t make me feel holiday-y enough. It was sad. There were similar crying jags when we celebrated Easter at the beach instead of at home around a ham. Not traditional enough. I wanted what advertising told me that a family looked like. What did I know – I was 11 and recently watched the nasty (but in our case, necessary) path of my parents’ split.
Later on, in college, there were Thanksgivings and Christmases that practically got ignored, because of other obligations. Even when I didn’t go to church on a regular basis, I’d have some sort of playing gig for a midnight mass. We’d eat a meal, we’d exchange few presents. Like I said – never big on presents. Not a fantastic gift-giver myself, but never much cared about getting them, either. I think I worked one year on Thanksgiving night – not at a retail establishment, but for my university’s housing department. And performing in the marching band the day after Thanksgiving, arriving to load the truck after eating the big turkey dinner. My last year of college, I worked in a box office on Thanksgiving Day. Even before I got to college, Christmas of my senior year of high school involved me playing at four holiday masses. And then writing a touching Open Diary message to mark the holiday. Ain’t nobody got time to make shortbread cookies at that point.
There were Christmases that were Bah Humbugged. No good cheer whatsoever and I didn’t care. Not one bit. Didn’t even send cards.
I was highly ambitious in those years. And since I hadn’t had a button-down perfect holiday, I stopped needing it. And now for whatever reason, my ambition seems to be dying down in favor of domestic stuff. Not really sure what or why this is happening – frustration with work is one aspect, surely – but I don’t want the ambitious working holiday anymore. I don’t want to make money gigging or doing whatever. I want to bake cookies and sew crafts and drink eggnog. (Just not the day after that highly spirited party. Ugh.)
For whatever reason this year, maybe it’s starting to rehearse holiday music on Halloween (there’s a holiday I have lost all touch with), I’ve been totally down with Christmas, Hanukkah, pagan solstice of wintertime, whatever you want to call it. Full of good cheer. Ready to party.
In the grand tradition of the wedding obsession years, I want to spend as much time as I possibly can with as many of the people I love as is allowed. Holidays are a grand excuse to do that.
So am I somehow reverting to my childhood states – holiday obsessed, and holding myself up to some sort of ridiculous standard for holiday cheer? Except that we don’t watch television with commercials these days – and if we did, I would have no more Christmas spirit – instead, the standards to which I hold myself come from Pinterest and creatures like it. Not like that’s any different from the Publix commercials of yore. Just manifesting itself in a different manner.
Hence why holiday depression shows up sometimes. Thankfully, I had built up my own little wedding support groups and so after that particular event, there was no regret as to ideals it didn’t live up to. That particular day exceeded my expectations, as well as everyone else’s. (With the exception that we have only sent out a handful of thank you cards.)
I have had fantastic winter holidays before. But they usually come with little expectation attached. Lots of work in the weeks before, and taking in the holiday in the little moments. That’s how it happens best.
Point being: I just need to remember that when I try to overplan menus and make sure everyone has the best, most magical time ever. Enjoy the time while you have it. And stop freaking out about cookies.