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Can a late Christmas still have cheer?

Erin Johnson

I don’t know if it was because this was my last true Christmas at home, but I found myself getting very excited for the holidays this year. Which is not to say that I haven’t been excited in past years; I still think of the Christmas season as a warm and jolly time. Picking out presents and making multiple runs to the shopping mall are tasks I enjoy.

Still, I found in this past month that I was counting down the days more eagerly than ever (except maybe when I was five). The anticipation, granted, was not purely for Christmas; the long break from school and the chance to see out-of-town friends also factored into to my excitement. Either way, the holiday spirit had a particularly strong hold on me.

About two weeks before Christmas, my dad informed me that my brother would not be able to make it home on that day. He works at a movie theatre in Berkeley, and as all theatre employees are aware, their businesses are indeed open 365 days a year. My brother wouldn’t be back until the 26th, which put a different spin on things. Should we open our presents and celebrate as usual on the 25th, or wait until the whole family was together? My parents left the decision up to me. I debated for awhile, and concluded that it wouldn’t really be Christmas anyway with only three; we would postpone Christmas a day.

Thus, I awoke Christmas morning at around noon. My parents were working in the yard while all around us, our neighbors’ houses were silent. The rest of the world was involved with opening presents and eating great big feasts. I went to work at 2 – I am, after all, a theatre employee – and watched as family after family streamed in. I was startled every time someone wished me “Merry Christmas.” After work, I drove down to my relatives’ house for dinner. Wrapping paper surrounded the Christmas tree. My little cousins proudly showed off their new baby dolls and remote control trucks. My holiday spirit was quickly leaving me, to be replaced by the thought that maybe Christmas for me had become just about the presents. After all, it was still the same day, right? It should feel the same, whether or not you get new toys.

By the evening of the 26th, when our Christmas was scheduled, I was convinced that all the hype surrounding the holiday was ridiculous. Why bother to decorate the house, just to take it all down a month later? Why stress out over one day, when all it had become was another occasion to give and receive gifts? These were my thoughts as I arrived home from work. My family was gathered in our living room. They were all waiting for me, and I hadn’t even put my gifts underneath the tree. Well, make that the plastic tree. My parents decided last year that a real one required far too much effort, a point of bitter contention in our household. Looking at the fake tree did not help my state of mind as I contributed my packages to the pile. I figured we would just open our presents, then in a couple of days we would disassemble the tree and Christmas would be all over.

We didn’t open our presents right away, however. Instead, my family waited while I changed. My mom made me a turkey sandwich. My brother fiddled around with the lights on the tree, until they blinked on and off. I remembered how we had always liked them that way best when we were children. My dad put on his favorite tape of Christmas music, the same one we listen to every year. Nobody was even in a rush to unwrap their gifts; we talked for awhile, made hot apple cider, and even made fun of our fake Christmas tree. I was glad I had decided to wait until my brother came home. After all, if we had carried through with it on the 25th, the difference would have been even more notable. Christmas presents are nice, but what truly makes the holiday are all the silly family traditions that go into it, and knowing that they rely less on the date on the calendar than on the meaning behind them.

Erin Johnson lives in Grass Valley and is a senior at Nevada Union High School. Write her in c/o the Youth Page, The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945.

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