Christmas Solo: On Not Feeling "Christmassy"
If you ask me, it doesn't really feel like Christmas.
Of course, what I then ask myself is: What is Christmas supposed to feel like?
My answer is: I'm not sure.
For the first time in a long while I'm here in Los Angeles doing Christmas solo. With airfare out of my budget (you'd be horrified to find out what CSU lecturers make, I'd bet) and the flight schedules whacked to boot, instead of joining my parents and extended family up in the Vancouver, BC area, I opted to wing it on my own here where "the orange and palm trees sway." So here it is, Christmas morning, and I'm still not convinced it's Christmas.
This time of year was a huge deal for me when I was a kid (yeah, that's me, unwrapping a classically rad Xmas gift: The Fisher Price Doctor's Kit) because in my house December was a triple threat: Hanukkah, Christmas, and My Birthday (the 28th--there's still some shopping days left, fear not!). For the rest of the year I sat (im)patiently, waiting for the big payoff in month twelve. This only child had it made. There were always Christmas songs on the radio, treats galore, and relatives to laugh with. Heck, in Toronto and sometimes Vancouver there was often snow.
I've lived in Los Angeles for over seventeen years now, so the whole blue skies, glinting sun, flip-flops on your feet and a scarf around your neck thing doesn't really phase me. Friends are far-flung with families of their own, or bit the price bullet and bought tickets to get out of here. A lot of us are forgoing gifts for each other, or gifting things you can't wrap, like an outing or a future day of pampering, and while I have the presents my family so kindly sent me via mail, it's admittedly a little weird to be opening them by myself--maybe that's why I'm putting it off and taking time to drink my morning coffee and play on the internets. But I don't feel sorry for myself (and I don't want you to, either!)... but I also don't feel Christmassy.
Yesterday I found the XM radio station on my cable that plays the classic and kitschy Christmas carols I grew up with, and the Andrews Sisters and Frank Sinatra have been crooning in the background. I've been eating more than my fair share of all things flavored with peppermint, and dutifully pinning up the greeting cards that arrived in the mail on the wall. I've sent wishes of my own, and have been talking Holiday for days now on this here blog. I'm even trying to get myself excited for the spread at a friend's family's place I'm heading to this afternoon.
Of course, none of this is what Christmas is about. Being the non-religious sort, I'm afraid I can't turn to the Baby Jesus for my Christmas Miracle and sense of wonder (and the Hanukkah celebrations stopped almost 15 years ago). I think about "big ideas" like love, happiness, goodwill, kindness, and giving pretty much on a daily basis, so I'm pretty sure I don't need one day where we unwrap presents delivered by a fat white man in a red suit to remind me of what I'm grateful for and what it means to be alive. I'm not sure how rum-spiked egg nog and mistletoe fit in, but, okay, I'm cool with them. I know a big part of the magic has to do with childhood, and since I'm painfully far from that, and there's nary a kid in my sight, I think that's why being solo (not alone!) today is a little deflating. And to not be with the people who saw me through my own childhood is taking the wind out my sails, too--because many say that Christmas is about family, and I'm missing my crazy one today, too.
All that said, I'm not sad today. I'm not lonely or bah humbugged or upset. I'm just not feeling Christmassy, and that's just the way it's going to have to be. I've got some sense of tradition going for me--the powdered sugar dusted Christmas bread (Stollen) to nibble on, the Bing Crosby to listen to, the aforementioned presents to open, and the phone calls to and from loved ones. At the end of the day, I've got a lot, and I know it, and maybe that's what Christmas is about, no matter who you are or where you're celebrating it.
So from me, solo in NoHo Arts, a very Merry Christmas to you and yours.
Photo of Christmas 1979 from the author's own collection