So it’s that time of year again, the one where I get needlessly stressed out while also battling tidal waves of joy and nostalgia. Do all adults feel this way? If you’re like me, that is to say a childless hyperemotional 30-something, perhaps this is just my lot when it comes to the Christmas season. I was talking to my wife about this a couple nights ago, and came up with the concept of “Christmas Love Languages.” The traditional love languages of Acts of Service, Physical Touch, etc., can be translated a bit to suit your own holiday feelings, but here’s my thoughts:
- Christmas as a Kid
So much of the Christmas spirit that not-so-subtly sneaks up on me in the November-ish time of year has to do with this mammoth reservoir of childhood memories. As our own unreliable narrators we can take all of our hazy brain videos, strain out the negative details – framing tons of snow during Christmastime (which almost always never occured when we think, but your mileage may vary), stress with school or friends, things like that – and assemble a much more palatable, effecient, and amorphous memory yolk that, for the most part, represents the ideal Christmastimes we had when we were youngn’s. It gives us this tear-inducing stomachache-y feeling that only Christmas can provide. Be warned, if you bring up “the giant snowmen and blizzard of December ’93” that made for the perfect Christmas setting, don’t be surprised if your mom or dad corrects you about that weather occurring in February of the following year.
- Sensory Stimulus
Old reliable! This is the real stuff right here, folks, and the best part is as adults we can replicate these pretty accurately because brain. These are absolutely, 100% subjective to each individual with a Christmas memory bank, but maybe mine can help you hone in on what yours may be. For me, Christmas tree lights have a very particular smell. It’s a rubbery, plasticky, dusty ozone funk that I never cease to baseline like a junkie every year. My method involves smelling them cold first, then plugging them into an outlet (ostensibly to test for bad bulbs), then not only do you get the glorious colorful glow, there’s the electric warmth and a delicate toasting of a year’s worth of tote aroma. Runners up include the feeling of warm plastic blow molds, seeing Christmas lights dazzle against the ornaments and shiny wrapping paper, going on slow drives around Oak Lawn to see the decorated houses at night, and hearing the first 60 seconds of Bing Crosby’s rendition of “What Child is This?/The Holly & The Ivy.”
- The Bustle of a Full House
The most precious and fleeting of all Christmas love languages, these circumstances require mental snapshots and home movies to get any sort of grasp on remembering. This isn’t going to be everybody’s Christmas vibe, but typically there is a house – yours, your parents, grandparents, typically – where everybody gathered for the holidays. The magic may not be during the presents or a giant feast, but more likely than not during mundane moments where there’s about a dozen adults milling around a suddenly-small home with as many or more children going apeshit doing children things. This happened a goodly amount during my childhood, but I don’t think I ever stopped to soak up just how amazing and perfect it was. I’m sure I was preoccupied, even as a child and definitely a younger man, to see only what my stress and youth allowed me to see at the time, not realizing perhaps the most important thing about family Christmases: The holiday is about those people and those moments, and when they’re gone, they’re gone forever.
- The People That Make Christmas
This is coming straight from my life, and may not be applicable to yours. My Grandma was the pillar that brought the aunts, uncles, cousins, and all the rest under one roof around the holidays. Being in her house in December with all of the elements of Language 4 playing out was one of the great exhilirations of my life. Even the 3-hour car ride was glorious. Her absolute joy having everybody home again radiated in an unmatched way that imbued the very air with gold. When she passed away a few years ago, we all were impacted tremendously, and the holiday has not and will not be the same again. Thankfully my mother, in terms of the immediately family, continues to flourish in a similar role and has always championed Christmas gloriously, which I am forever grateful for and cherish still. If you’re reading this, Mom, I love you and the way you celebrate each year. Never change. My Christmases at home with my parents, brother, and sister were a blast growing up, and while a bit more bittersweet these days, still make for a wonderful time, all because of my Mom.
- Abstract Cultural Concepts of Christmas
This here category is a pool for all of the things our culture and society has provided or idealized for us everyday folks to relish, preferably in a commercial sense. Amy and I spent almost an hour last night watching 1990’s Christmas commercials and it definitely speaks to something in my emotions that probably falls somewhere in Language 1 and 2, but I don’t have a concrete set of memories where I recall seeing these ads (and saw some or all of them numerous times during my childhood). Seeing Santa Claus at the mall or wherever, hearing Bing Crosby sing “White Christmas” to the troops for the thousandth time, you get the idea. All of these movies, commercials, TV shows, and moments form an emotional sludge that can cling onto heartstrings and memories, and for some may be their favorite part of the season, but for others simply are icing on a much larger festive cake.
Anyways, all this is to say that it’s officially Christmastime and I’m going to throw a few lists your way of my Christmas Top Fives for you to, ya know, do whatever with. I have no idea if I’ll post again before Christmas, but if I don’t and you’re reading this, I hope you have an amazing Christmas full of mental snapshots with people you love.
MY TOP 5 CHRISTMAS MOVIES
- It’s a Wonderful Life
- A Christmas Story
- Home Alone
- A Christmas Carol (1984)
- Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
MY TOP 5 CHRISTMAS SONGS THAT PROBABLY AREN’T IN YOUR PLAYLISTS
- “O Come All ye Faithful” – Sandler & Young
- “Christmas is for Children” – Glen Campbell
- “O Come, O Come Emmanual/We Three Kings” – Neil Diamond
- “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” – MercyMe (most of their Christmas album is insanely good)
- “Angels We Have Heard On High” – Relient K
TOP 5 CHRISTMAS DOS AND DON’TS
- DO use shiny wrapping paper over the matte stuff. Looks sexier under a well-lit tree.
- DON’T get flavored candy canes. Traditional minty ones are all anyone needs. The rest has a future in a garbage bin.
- DO put your decorations up and get into the Christmas season whenever you want. Codgers like me who wait until post-Thanksgiving shouldn’t impact your holiday choices.
- DON’T burden your adult family and friends with presents that aren’t edible unless you have a lock that they would use it or want it. Not everyone wants a pile of gifts they didn’t desire in the first place. Explore culinary, emotional, or written options.
- DO make a giant batch of cocktail weenies in a crock pot for any and all occasions during the holiday season.