I have never been much of a Christmas person.
I've never put up my own Christmas tree. I've never once turned on Pandora's Christmas music station. I've never gotten all that much joy out of jingling bells or roasting chestnuts on an open fire. Sure, I looked forward to the season when I was kid, but that was strictly because of the presents, which were typically ripped from their wrapping paper before the sun had gone down on Dec. 24.
As an adult, the only thing I particularly like about this time of year is finally rescuing my thrift store sweaters from the back of the closet. I guess eggnog is pretty good, too.
It helps, then, that I married someone who shares my antipathy toward the alleged most wonderful time of the year. My wife's birthday happens to fall on Christmas Day, which means she's had to contend with sharing a special day with Baby Jesus for years now. It's a curse (an admittedly minor one) that Christmas babies everywhere understand: Your friends are too busy with their own family stuff to celebrate your actual birthday, and you usually have to contend with your birthday presents getting thrown in with all your Christmas presents, as if they're somehow interchangeable. The horror!
Even so, we nonetheless get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays: Either we're traveling to California to visit her family, or we're scrambling around the kitchen to make a dish to bring to dinner at my parents' house in Spokane. Or we're pushing through crowds at a downtown retail store because we're participating in a gift exchange that we've put off until the last possible minute.
This year, though, we're both really going to miss Christmas. Obviously the holiday itself will come and go, but the traditional idea of Christmas isn't a reality in 2020. My family has already made plans to gather over Zoom and cook Thanksgiving dinner in our respective kitchens, and we'll play some virtual party games on Christmas.
It'll be fun, but it won't be the same. I know it's the right thing to do — even small indoor gatherings can be dangerous — but it's still a tough call to make.
And just like that, I'm suddenly longing for Christmas — for the comfort of gathering in a living room after eating my weight in mashed potatoes, of emptying my stocking while a football game buzzes on TV in the background, of drinking one too many beers while fumbling to put together my newest electronic gadget.
All it took was an unparalleled pandemic and a statewide quarantine for my Grinch heart to finally grow three sizes. But better late than never. ♦