Monday, December 20, 2010
December is my favorite month. I've been telling people that and I'm stunned by their response. Each person has replied, "Why?"
I don't understand this question. We are neck-deep in Christmas decorations, Christmas music, Christmas goodies, Christmas parties and Christmas shopping, yet people wonder why December is my favorite month? Are they blind?
Or does Christmas not seem like a reason to enjoy December? Do these people maybe dislike Christmas and find the whole thing unpleasant? Have they not noticed the Santas and snowmen everywhere? Does Christmas hold their attention no more than ordinary television commercials? Why does anyone have to ask why December is my favorite month?
Well, it is. But I don't look forward to Christmas Day or even Christmas eve. I look forward to December itself. I'm holding on for December in September. I'm waiting for December in high July. I long for December in March. I start wishing it were December on January first.
Each time a fellow grownup says to me, "I can't believe it's already December!" I respond with, "Are you kidding? It took forever to get here. I've been waiting for December for months." No one gets any sympathy from me with, "Can you believe Christmas is Saturday?" My answer is, "Yes, I can because I've been closely paying attention to every single day leading up to it."
It's the whole month that I enjoy, so my enthusiasm begins on December first, as I think, "It's finally December! It's the month I wait for all year long!" I relish the single-digit dates of December, feeling a slight panic of loss on the 10th. As the month continues to slip away, I feel dismay that it's eventually going to end, but that feeling is balanced by the increasing saturation of the holiday through all aspects of our culture: decorations blanket the city, holiday programming takes over the TV, parties increase, the candy and homemade treats become a constant in my workplace. It becomes one never-ending festival.
For weeks now, each time I've passed a Christmas display or noticed branches outlined by little lights I revel, "It's Christmastime!" Having December 25th on the horizon is the dream come true that I've been holding since the previous winter. Because it's the whole season I relish, it can never start too early. Christmas commercials in October? Sure, let the festivities begin!
And yet, it's not December 25th that I'm focused on. As a grown-up, I don't have that childhood experience of Christmas Day bringing the excitement of wishes come true and proof of a benevolent being who brings just what I want. And I certainly don't cherish the day for any religious reasons. So December 25th has really just become a marker for me. December 25th is when the party ends. It's the weeks before that hold all the activity and anticipation, and isn't anticipation always better than release?
It is for me. I love a celebration and the way we do Christmas in the US, the big party happens well before the actual day. We spend weeks decorating and getting in the (shopping) mood for the holidays, mixing and stirring traditional imagery, idealized expectations, materialistic desire and consumer-oriented demonstrations of affection. Those weeks are when the real partying happens. Few people leave their decorations up much past New Year's Day and fewer yet have Christmas parties after the 25th. Even religious people don't have parties after Jesus has been born. It's all about the lead-up and nothing but a lot of after-Christmas sales happen on the downslope of December. Oh, yeah, and New Year's, but that's a completely different party.
So I enjoy December, all of it, right up until the radio stations stop playing Nat King Cole and the first trees get tossed out with the garbage. As my friends stock up on next year's Christmas cards and the best of the 50% off shelves, I renew my vigil and start looking forward to the return of December in eleven more months.