Everything’s Normal

Things have been pretty dull around here lately. So dull that when I made hot toddies on Thursday night, it was the big event of the week.

(I made them with Celestial Seasonings brand rooibos vanilla tea, and OMG they were out of this world! Here’s the recipe I used.)

The other excitement of the week was getting our Christmas tree today!

Something Like Normal

We’re doing our best to keep things as normal as possible for the boys. They’re home all day every day and they don’t see other kids, which is not normal. But within that, we try to stick to a schedule.

I think that everyone finds some comfort in routine. It helps to normalize a very abnormal situation, such as this pandemic.

But a little change is sometimes called for, and this year we’re getting into the holiday spirit much earlier than I’m used to.

So, this morning we drove out to western Loudoun County and visited Milltown Creek Christmas Tree Farm. We got our tree there last year, and the familiarity of the place was good for the boys.

Also, the magic of it.

Even More Special This Year

This year, the comfort of the tree and the lights feels almost necessary.

Despite wearing masks the whole time, we felt normal, and certainly happy as we strolled through the rows of pines and firs trying to find the perfect tree.

(The Bear did complain of hunger a bit, but that’s all in keeping with the normal theme.)

The sun was shining, and though it was cold we were able to enjoy a complimentary cup of hot apple cider out in the sunshine before driving home.

Once home, we went through the process of taking out the box of decorations, rediscovering each ornament at a time. There’s always magic in that moment, but today it seemed even sweeter.

Craving Family

This will be the first Christmas in many years that we haven’t been with family. We were planning to stay put for Christmas this year anyway, but since we haven’t been able to travel at all since January, it feels wrong.

Normally, we’d have visited Spain in the summer, maybe even Switzerland, too. Staying home at Christmas would be a rest: a chance for us to relax as a family.

But after the isolated, socially distant year we’ve had, I miss family and friends more than ever. Though I swore last year I wouldn’t travel at Christmas for at least a few years, given the opportunity to do so safely, I think I’d jump on a plane tomorrow.

In Lieu of That…

We have ornaments. Gifts from family, friends. Gifts from my mother who always did her best to make the holidays magical.

And so we put up the tree today (two weeks early, in my books!), and it warms our hearts.

Looking at it makes our loved ones who are so far away feel closer.

Bah! Humbug!

CHRISTMAS STARTS AFTER HALLOWEEN?!?!

Okay, I knew it was early here, but WOW! That is VERY early, indeed!

The boys were surprised (and delighted) to find Christmas decorations in the stores practically the day after Halloween.

I, however, was dismayed.

TOO EARLY!

First of all, I LOVE Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays.

I love how it’s all about food (something I can get behind), getting together as a family, and being thankful together. There’s very little commercialization.

It seems to me to be the only unadulterated (read: un-merchandized) holiday left.

So what do companies and retailers do?? Why, SKIP OVER IT ENTIRELY, OF COURSE! The only money-making part of Thanksgiving is Black Friday!

Bring Back the Twelve Days!

I think, even in a year as crappy as 2020, it’s such a shame to rush so early into Christmas, at the expense of Thanksgiving.

People still celebrate it, of course, but with their Christmas trees up!

And I can totally understand that lots of people need it this year. But here’s what I propose:

Let’s make a move back to celebrating the full twelve days of Christmas!

Yes! That’s right! Christmas celebrations used to begin on the evening of December the 24th and lasted until January the 6th (Epiphany). That’s twelve days of partying! Merry-making! FUN!

WHO DOESN’T WANT THAT??

Surprised?

If you go to church, you know there’s the “Advent season” (the four Sundays before Christmas), and there’s the Christmas season.

There is some debate as to whether or not the “Christmas season” lasts this long, but in some church calendars, the Christmas season actually lasts until Candlemas! (That’s the 2nd of February, in case you didn’t know.)

But at the very least, Christians can all agree that the Christmas season lasts through January 5th and ends with the celebration of the Epiphany on January the 6th.

(As an aside, Epiphany is the celebration of when the three wise men came and presented gifts to the baby Jesus. In Spain and in many other Latin cultures, presents are actually given on Epiphany, not on Christmas–all the more reason to KEEP PARTYING UNTIL EPIPHANY!)

Historical Christmas

There’s a little history for you! This is where the carol “The 12 Days of Christmas” comes from.

Historically, since this was a dark and rather unproductive time of the year (nothing’s growing, not much doing…), it was a time when people made merry.

Christmas trees (introduced to English culture by Queen Victoria’s German husband, Albert, in the 19th century) weren’t traditionally “trimmed” or lit until December the 24th.

In our house, we never put up the tree before Christmas Eve. But we kept it up through Twelfth Night (not just a Shakespeare play! Also, the 12th night after Christmas).

But fun and games were had during these 12 dark, cold winter days. And the tradition of lighting things up continues, as we try to dispel the cold, dark and gloom of winter with artificial lights.

Why The Twelves Days Matter in 2020

This has been such an epically awful year. I can understand that people are especially anxious to get into the Christmas spirit ahead of time.

But it’s such a shame for it to come and go in one day on December the 25th.

I say we should go back to some of the old traditions: feasting, pranking, singing, dancing, exchanging gifts and (yes) drinking over the course of 12 days.

We’ve waited so long for Christmas, and for 2020 to be over. It only feels right that we should see it off with a bang.

Here’s how Christmas USED to be done!