We all have our memories that make the holiday season special. Some recall the little things, like board games or puzzles we share to pass the time until presents mysteriously appear Christmas morn. Some reflect on the birth of Christ, whether by attending church, or the scripture Linus recites while clinging to his blue blanket.
Maybe it’s dragging the decorations out of the attic, or digging them out from the basement.
Perhaps you partake in the magic of constructing your very own plastic tree, or helping your parents track down the perfect tree from the magic tree lot. Maybe you still trek out to the woods to find an original.
Once the tree is on display, decorating has it’s own pomp. It may involve classic holiday songs, snacking, another favorite movie playing in the background.
Then there’s lighting the menorah. While I know very little of the Jewish faith, I’m always game for more holidays to celebrate.
The best ones, however, are the quirky ones that you and your family share.
We used to put together a huge jigsaw puzzle on Christmas Eve. My mother would put out a spread of snacks to graze on all night. Candies, cookies, veggies and dip, shrimp. One year my dad picked up pizza rolls. I immediately made those unhealthy bites of cheese and pepperoni part of the holiday ritual, much to my mother’s aversion.
I also enjoy trying to steal away the best spot on the couch from my sisters and drinking hot cocoa (or now a days coffee) as I read another book, and glace out the window, watching flakes of snow fall from the black sky.
My dad telling us as children that for one minute at midnight on Christmas, all the animals can speak. We were always in the car driving back from the midnight mass, so we missed out every year to hear what our dog really thought.
The puzzles have become less frequent, but we replaced them with other games, other traditions.
Then Christmas morning comes around, and my sisters and I would sneak down and grab our stockings and see what was inside them before we woke up mom and dad. Then we’d each take turns, slowly turning the living room floor into a growing pool of ribbons and wrapping paper.
The special ingredient that makes these memories special? It’s family.
This year, I still watch the cheesy Christmas specials, and wrap presents while sipping mint-flavored coffee. I glance outside to see if the snow is falling, or if the white cover on the ground is melting away.
But I won’t be home Dec. 25. I won’t make it back until after the big day.
I think about those who aren’t going to make it home at all. They may be across the country, the globe, or they can’t make it due to unfortunate limitations.
That nostalgic feeling keeps rising up in me, and at first I thought missing the chance to be home that day would damper the holiday, I’m still lucky enough to have time to get home.
Without family, all the things that make this holiday special seem flat, structured, commercialized. Whatever it is, it’s missing something.
I know that not every family is perfect, and some cause nightmares instead of memories. But there’s a chance that next season you won’t get to see the whole family, so try to cherish it this time around.
And if you know someone who can’t be with their loved ones, maybe welcome them in. It can’t beat being home for the holidays, but it’s better than nothing at all.