Sunday, December 27, 2009

After Christmas

The day after Christmas is always a day tinged with a bit of post-holiday sadness. As a child, even if you got everything you wanted (and I remember only these gifts I got, not any I wanted and did not get), it still means waiting another whole year for Christmas to come again. My impression of the day after Christmas, like the holiday itself, has changed over the years.

Growing up in northern Michigan, the passing of Christmas also meant the start of a long, cold winter. You could count on bitter cold in January, a few false suggestions of better weather in February—good only to raise false hopes—and then the mud season of March. Finally, in April, spring would begin to appear and at some point in the month the ice would finally go out on the lake. The days were short and you awoke in the dark and came home from school in the dark. Winter was more a time to survive than enjoy—but the recompense was summer days that seemed endless with weather that was perfect.

One disappointment about Texas weather is that during the months when the weather is best—fall and spring—the days are already growing short or have not yet grown long. Our long days are during the brutal heat of summer.

As a college student, Christmas was more an afterthought. It was an interruption in your life when you saw family and remembered your past life. The period after Christmas, visiting home, often seemed to pass slowly. Your new friends were at school and you were still working out a new relationship, as an adult, with your family.

Once you have children of your own Christmas changes again. Now you enter into performance mode. Children expect so much from Christmas (at least in middle class America) and, as you soon find out, Christmas for parents is like putting on a show. You get better after the first few years, but the day after mingles relief with a review of how well the show went. Fortunately, children have an amazing capacity for joy, so even a weak performance usually meets with rave reviews.

Now my children are adults, not yet with children of their own. This is a comfortable time. Expectations are low. The amount of effort required is low, there is very little I want or need, so I am happy with any gifts I get, and it’s possible just to enjoy the holiday. The time after Christmas is also less forbidding in Texas. Spring comes early here and only January, which will have some nice days, is really winter. By February, spring is on its way, flowers begin to bloom and it’s time to plant the garden.

So now is for me an easy time to enjoy Christmas but also let it pass by. I know, in a few years, that my children will likely have families of their own and the focus of Christmas will change once more. I’m sure at that point the holiday will change for me once more, and perhaps become less—or more—enjoyable. I don’t know yet, but God willing, I will someday know.

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