Christmas Is Cool, But Let's Talk About New Years
I’m a Dec. 1 kind of Christmas tree person. I love the Christmas season. Because I usually host now that I’m an adult and have kids, I have all my childhood ornaments and decorations. My Christmas tree does not look like it belongs in a magazine. There are handmade ornaments from my kids and the ones I made as a kid.
I insist on a real tree for the smell and abide by the pine needles.
I have music boxes that sit on mantles and sheet music on the piano for when the mood strikes to play a carol. There’s baking galore, and my kids love to decorate those sugar cookie cutouts that don’t taste nearly as good as chocolate chip but are more of a journey than a destination. We watch Christmas movies, and I put up Christmas lights outside.
It’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of mess. I love it.
However, once the gifts have been opened on Christmas Day and the guests have gone home, I start to feel stifled by the rapidly dying conifer in my living room. Pine needles get stuck in my socks. The flashing lights everywhere start to give me a headache, and the weather is turning frightful, making me nervous about getting on a ladder to take down the lights.
My tree comes down by New Year’s Day no matter what. It’s time, after a month of keeping children and dogs from stealing ornaments and attempting to water it, but it’s also symbolic for me. I put away the Christmas books and the framed photos with Santa and start the year fresh. After I store my family ornaments and vacuum up all the pine needles, my house looks emptier, cleaner, and fresher, like my attitude about beginning a new year.
I never make New Year’s resolutions, or at least not officially. I make a new budgeting spreadsheet and maybe set some loose goals. But, there’s something about a clean house and a new calendar year that calms me after the season of joy.
Because it’s not just a season of joy, is it? It’s a season of expectations. We are supposed to be merry and bright, picture-perfect, and get everything on the list. We’re supposed to remember how to spell all seven of the preschool teachers’ names and count stocking stuffers to make sure both kids get the same amount. We don’t get someone a gift, and, when they give you one, you die of embarrassment.
You spend time with your family, who you love but don’t always like, and miss people who are absent for reasons as simple as geography and time or as insurmountable as death. You drag your children to Christmas light displays and struggle to get them into winter coats so they can enjoy the festivals of lights … which they do not. They cry on Santa’s lap and complain about their itchy holiday outfits. Try as you might to make them less anxious, the kids are terrified that Santa is watching them and will put them on the naughty list. The food is meant to be extravagant, and the richness gives you heartburn. Everyone sugar rushes and crashes. Christmas cards with people humblebragging about their blessings start to fall off the mantle. You see red literally everywhere.
And then New Year’s Day rolls around, and it’s over. The kids go back to school, wearing the new sweater they got from their aunt, your house is back to its neutral earth tones, and no one’s in the mood to make you try their grandma’s legendary gravy recipe. There’s way less pressure, less expectation. The weather stays the same, but it’s more acceptable to stay in and do nothing. No one’s watching.
Some people get the “drearies” in January, but I feel hope, coziness, and a sense of normalcy and routine that calms me. A new year is ahead. Who knows what’ll happen, but we can try to take care of each other the best we can, and, next year, when December comes roaring in, we’ll welcome the tree again, pine needles and all.